It’s no secret that how you fuel your workout directly impacts your performance, but what you might not know is that the best food depends on your sweat-session of choice. Runners have different needs than yogis, but there are some constants.
“No matter your workout, aim to eat a pre-workout meal at least two hours prior and a snack no closer than 30 minutes before a workout,” said Kim McDevitt, MPH RD and Vega National Educator. “After your workout wait no longer than 30 minutes before starting to replenish your losses.”
As the calendar inches towards January and you start thinking about your 2016 fitness goals, I asked McDevitt and Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD, Registered Dietitian and the Founder/CEO of F-Factor Nutrition, LLC, to pick the right food for workout success.
Long distance runners
“Endurance training, like long-distance running, is great to build up cardiovascular strength, but all that extra stress on the body can also create free radicals called reactive oxygen species that can wreak havoc on healthy cells,” explained Zuckerbrot, who recommends increasing antioxidants like Vitamins C and E to help combat damage.
In addition to clinging to free radicals and making them more, stable they will support increased oxygen flow to get you through your run and over that finish line.
“Snack on raw almonds, sunflower seeds, citrus fruits, blueberries or red bell peppers, which contain both C and E for a super boost,” Zuckerbrot said.
You’ll also want to consume easily digested carbs before a long run.
“Carbohydrates supply glucose, the primary fuel needed by the body. Carbohydrates are more quickly digested than fats and proteins. Pre-workout, avoid fiber-rich, high-protein and high-fat foods so that your body can focus on the run and not digestion. Fruit is a quick option, as are cooked oats or smoothies, when you have a bit longer to digest before the run,” McDevitt said.
Carbs are critical post-run. McDevitt suggests refueling with a 4-to-1 carb-to-protein ratio drink, such as Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator, within 20 minutes of your cool down. “[It] efficiently replenishes muscle glycogen and electrolytes, reduces inflammation…and supports immune system function.”
HIIT (high intensity interval training) programs such as CrossFit are an excellent way to burn fat and calories, but they also place a tremendous amount of stress on the skeletal system and bones.
“To prevent injury, focus on taking in enough Vitamin D3, which helps support bone mineralization and prevents fractures, allowing you to focus all your efforts on improving your box jump,” Zuckerbrot said. “To easily get your daily dose of Vitamin D3, add 1 teaspoon of Cod liver oil to your diet. It provides 110 percent of your daily need. “
Post-workout, reach for protein.
“Choose an easy-to-digest source that has at least 25 grams of complete protein per serving plus branched chain amino acids (BCAAs).”
BCAAs are essential amino acids that you must get from food. “They are especially important for athletes who are strength training, as they help transition your body from a catabolic (breaking down muscle) to an anabolic (building muscle) stage after exercise,” McDevitt said.
Try shaking 1 serving of protein powder with non-dairy milk or blending into a smoothie post-workout.
While the level of exertion can vary based on yoga class type, all yoga is about mind-body connection and muscle endurance with focus on balance and flexibility.
“It’s best to practice yoga (especially hot yoga) on an empty stomach, so consider eating at least three hours before class,” McDevitt said.
“During your class focus on hydration, drinking water and/or an electrolyte drink to keep you hydrated. Post-workout, start to flush out toxins released in the body with water and a drink such as a green juice or a smoothie that includes fresh fruit, greens and protein.”
“To alleviate muscle stiffness, anti-inflammatory compounds in certain foods go a long way,” Zuckerbrot said. She loves adding fresh ginger to a smoothie, popping fresh tart in her mouth or sipping cherry juice after class.
“If you’ve taken a spin class you likely can identify with the amount of sweat that occurs so make sure you’re sipping on lots of water before and during class,” McDevitt said. “After class replenish with hydrating foods and drinks that contain the essential electrolytes that were lost.”
Skip the sugary sports drink and reach for a natural option such WTRMLN WTR, watermelon juice. Watermelon gives you not only electrolytes but also the amino acid L-citrulline, shown to relieve post-exercise muscle soreness, and juice is a great way to get extra fluids in too.