Want to make the most gains in the gym, have the energy to complete your workouts, and sleep better?
Then we’ve got to dial in the nutrition. While the workout is key to gains, what we eat and when is fundamental to fueling those gains.
Have you ever wondered how it is that Crossfit games athletes can do those grueling workouts day in and day out and still thrive? Because they treat their bodies like you would treat a Lamborghini or Ferrari! The best fuel, the best maintenance, and lots of TLC!
How does this equate to YOUR body?
Because not having fuel in the tank (and the right fuel!) will impact how hard and how long you can go for in your workouts, and how effectively you recover.
To make it easy and to keep our athletes from crashing during workouts (you know who you are!) I am going to give some simple guidelines on some of the easiest and best ways to eat for performance.
As you go along and learn more about nutrition and what your body likes the best you will learn how to tinker with what you are doing to get the best results for you. You most likely will find that nutrition, like a lot of things in life, is not always one size fits all.
Let’s first talk about setting your workout up for success.
Your body needs fuel to work- and that can come from glucose, fat, or breaking down of muscle. For the sake of this post we are going to focus on glucose, because it’s arguably our bodies preferred fuel source.
Glucose comes from carbs, and when you are eating for performance, you are going to want to eat carbs that can be easily digested. You will want to eat these carbs before, (sometimes during), and after your workout.
Easily digested carbs refer to things that break down fast without a whole lot of other stuff attached to them (you want it broken down fast so you don’t have a whole bunch of food in your stomach while you are trying to do burpees!).
The most common sources of these carbs are simple sugars (literally sugar like in candy), bananas, or white rice.
These foods are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and don’t leave a whole lot of other stuff to have to digest. Eat 30 to 40 grams of easily digested carbs a minimum of 90 minutes before your workout- this gives your food the opportunity to be digested and be available as energy.
If your stomach is sensitive you can shoot for 2 hours out- but any more than that and you run the risk of those sugars being stored as fat or being utilized by your metabolism before exercise begins.
If you work out first thing in the morning, you can eat 30 to 40 grams of carbs before you go to bed.
Your body will store it as glycogen in the liver and you will be ready to go in the morning. My favorite is a rice crispy treat (make them yourself!) or a banana with a tablespoon of honey. You may find you are sleeping better too by adding in some carbs before bed because your brain uses carbs while you sleep!
Now to avoid turning this blog post into a novella, I am going to end with some simple suggestions for pre-workout protein consumption and a quick overview of post-workout diet recommendations. In the next part of this series, I will break things down a bit more.
You will want to try to consume 20 grams of whey protein (assuming it doesn’t give you digestion problems) a minimum of 2 hours BEFORE you work out.
Studies show that this is the most beneficial timing for liquid protein consumption, and whey being the most effective for post-workout muscle growth.
After you work out- within one to two hours (sometimes lovingly referred to as your “window of gains”)- you need to consume a minimum of 30 to 60 grams of easily digested carbs, a minimum of 30 to 60 grams of protein, and small amounts of fat.
The amounts of these macronutrients will vary based on gender, size, goals, and workout intensity. Go for white rice or potatoes, lean turkey, chicken, or beef, and watch the fat consumption so that the nutrients can be digested quickly and start to repair the muscle breakdown that occurs when we exercise.
This will get you on the road to eating well for performance. In the next installments, I will break down some of the subjects into a little more detail to provide you with some greater understanding of the how’s, whys, and logic behind our recommendations.
And don’t forget to comment below!