What you eat and when you eat it plays an important role in determining how effective your workout sessions at the gym are. Food fuels our muscles to work harder and longer. It also helps the muscles and the overall body recover after a session at the gym.
If you workout on an empty stomach, it will prevent you from pushing as hard as you would like to at the gym. You could also feel lightheaded, nauseous or tired due to the lack of nutrition.
Carbohydrates and Protein
In simple words, carbohydrates are equal to energy. Foods that are categorised as carbs break down into glucose and are absorbed by our muscles. It fuels the muscles during intense exercise routines. The glucose reserves of your body deplete over time, so eating carbs before heading to the gym ensures that your body has enough glucose for the session. However, remember to eat simple carbs that can be digested easily. So, you can have a couple of pieces of toasted brown bread, a cup of brown rice, a bowl of fruits, a bowl of oatmeal with milk, a bowl of salad, a granola bar, etc. Carbs are ideal for short but intense workout sessions.
If you prefer longer sessions at the gym with moderate to low-intensity rating, then you need to fuel up on some protein (lean protein, to be precise) as well. Protein is critical for the recovery of muscles after a session at the gym. Similar to carbs, remember to eat easily digestible protein before going to the gym. You can eat Greek yoghurt, eggs, lean meat like a like of ham or turkey, nuts, etc.
When you eat is as important as what you eat. Typically, you should eat at least an hour before you start exercising. It provides the body with adequate time to digest the food and absorb the necessary nutrients from the food. If you are having meat and eggs, then try to eat about two hours prior to working out. Simple foods like yoghurt and nuts can be consumed up to 30 minutes before hitting the gym.
One more thing. Make sure you’re properly hydrated before you start exercising.
You had a great session at the gym today, but you need to back it up by eating right after the session. Your glucose reserves will be at its lowest ebb after exercising and your muscles will require protein for a speedy recovery. Protein is particularly important after a session of weight training. Keep a protein bar handy to eat right after the session or a cup of Greek yoghurt or some dried fruits and nuts. Later, within a couple of hours of the session, have a full meal comprising foods like whole-wheat bread, quinoa, baked or grilled salmon, tofu, roasted veggies, etc.
Also, rehydrate yourself after a session at the gym.
You should consider consulting a dietician or nutritionist to create a diet chart for pre-workout and post-workout nutrition. They are professionals and will be able to help you design a diet chart that perfectly fits the requirements of your body.