We’re all different from our heads to our toes. Combine lifestyle dynamics, diet and our exercise programs, it is no wonder why it is all too often too complicated to maximize our efforts in the gym and accomplish our performance goals. It is well understood that nutrition is as important as exercise in losing that last pound or blah blah but most of us completely thwart our efforts in the gym by eating the wrong things at the wrong times and either too little or too much.
How do we simplify? TIMING. It is imperative to the overall success of your personal fitness goals that the timing of certain nutrients be understood and adhered to. Timing is everything.
Before You Exercise – Your largest meal of the day should be eaten at least 2–3 hours prior to your work out so that sufficient quantities of glycogen (stored blood sugar) can be stored prior to exercise. Your body burns glycogen much more efficiently than carbohydrates that were just consumed whether liquid or solid. Remember, you need enough glycogen in your muscle tissue to sustain an intense workout.
Since the human body can only store up to 2100 calories – enough for a 60–90 minute workout – this meal is critical. Try to eat a meal that has about 60–65% complex carbohydrates, 20–25% protein and no more than 15% fat. These ratios can vary slightly depending on your personal goals and metabolic profile.
During Exercise – If you’ve followed all of the steps that I’ve just outlined then ideally you should be sipping on water during your workout. However, because of lifestyle dynamics, too often we fail to do the proper thing for our diets all the time.
In this case it is acceptable to sip on up to 9–12 ounces of a high glycemic glucose/fructose sports drink or smoothie during your workout. It is important that we never over laden our digestive system while we expend energy working out. It is just as important that we exercise at peak efficiency all the time.
Exercising when fatigued can lead to injury and not reaching full potential. Having a little glucose/fructose drink during exercise can keep us on top. Your last rep should end on a psychological high. Believe it or not, your body remembers.
After Exercise – This is the most important meal of the day. The body only has a 30 to 45 minute window to optimize your workout. If you miss this opportunity to give it what it needs, the window quickly closes. You will not be able to store as much glycogen as prior to your workout because the cells that once contained your stored sugars have shrunk to now maintain a slower metabolism. Immediately following your workout, drink a high glycemic drink that has a three to one ratio of carbs versus protein. By doing this, the sugars race into your muscles, replenishing the lost glycogen, which keeps your metabolism humming.
This is key to weight loss or muscle gain. The body will not gain an ounce of fat but you will realize your fitness goals much quicker. As mentioned before, the body burns glycogen best. This is stored sugar. The best time to store that sugar is right after exercise. Timing is everything!
While looking at this chart, you might ask yourself “What qualifies as a healthy snack?” Here’s a handy reference you can look at to see what snacks are best for you. We hope that this nutritious eating strategy can help you learn the best times to not only work out, but also to eat!