A common fitness mistake made is poor nourishment when exercising. The misconception is that the harder you work, and the less you eat, the more fit you will be, which is false. Exercising until complete exhaustion and unbearable soreness, and not fueling your body, is doing more damage than you think, physically and mentally.
This is because our bodies need food to perform well physically. That’s why skipping breakfast before going to a 5am workout is also not doing you any favors. The body was fasting for the entire night and is out of easily accessible energy stores. So, if you exert a bunch of energy when depleted, you will break down energy from your muscles, which is opposite of what you want when you are working out.
Want to know how to eat for performance?
To maximize your output when working out, here are some sports nutrition guidelines from our Registered Dietitians, for pre- and post- workout:
- Before a workout, have a small carbohydrate-rich meal or snack. This meal or snack should be consumed anywhere from 1-4 hours prior to the workout.
- A good general guideline is to consume X amount of grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight for every X amount of hours prior to your workout. (Eg. I should be consuming 2 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight if I choose to eat 2 hours prior to my workout.)
- The carb source should be a simple/refined carb (white bread or white rice as opposed to whole grains).
Things that should be limited or avoided prior to a workout include:
- High-fiber or high-fat foods, as these are slow to digest and can create GI upset during the workout.
- A little bit of protein prior to a workout is okay, but not too much (again, it is slow to digest).
- A post-workout meal should have plenty of carbohydrates to replenish glucose stores in our muscles and liver that were depleted during exercise. This meal should also have some protein to encourage muscle repair. It is best to consume this meal within an hour or two after exercise, while our body is still experiencing increased, efficient blood flow.
Don’t forget about the things that support us feeling our best:
- Get enough sleep – this helps with metabolism, and gives you energy to move, stay focused, and make better choices
- Meditation and mindfulness exercises
- Drinking water
- Getting fresh air and sun
- Connecting with people
- Creative outlets
- Cleaning and keeping your space tidy
- Journaling, reading, listening to a podcast
- Reducing screen time
If you're looking for some nutritious, balanced meals that are geared towards performance. Try our healthy frozen meals. These meals are great for staying active, energized, and building muscle.
We hope these tips can help you start to unlearn, and learn more constructive, educated, science-based pointers to help kick start a different type of health journey. One where new healthier habits stick because you have more freedom and flexibility, allowing you to be you. Strict diets and exercise regimens close out possibilities, and make you feel trapped.
The key to health is working on yourself inside and out. Not just on the out. Make room for open-mindedness to try new foods, and different types of movement. Because at the end of the day, we’re happiest when we engage in the things we actually like.
This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding diet.
This article has been reviewed by a Registered Dietitian, Waverly Taki, MS. RD. CD. and Dietetics Student, Danielle Lycklama, for additional accuracy.