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Eating to help your body perform

Posted June 19, 2013 in Advice Column, Downtown

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, maintain or gain muscle mass, what you eat before, during and after training is vital to your success and will have a significant impact on your results.

Before your workout, focus on eating a predominantly carbohydrate-based snack, with a fast-acting protein, about 60 to 90 minutes before your sweat session. Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred fuel source, but you want to focus on consuming carbohydrates that can be utilized as an immediate fuel source, not stored as fat. Try to eat carbs in smaller amounts throughout the day to provide energy to your muscles, and eat the majority of your carbs around your workout. Complex carbohydrates, like stone-rolled oats or sweet potatoes, are great for steadying blood sugar levels and providing fuel sources that can be quickly tapped or used to restore glycogen levels. Fruits are a healthy, quickly digestible carbohydrate source for immediately before or after a workout. Avoid white sugar and processed grains, as these will be stored as fat. Aim for 40 grams of carbohydrates and 10 to 15 grams of protein.

After your workout, you want a snack that is protein heavy, as you have just depleted your muscles and you want to refuel them with muscle-building protein, not carbohydrates which may be stored as fat. Protein is essential for tissue growth and repair and a post-workout protein is essential to helping muscle repair, recovery and growth. Whey protein and egg whites are top picks for fast-acting proteins that work both before and after a workout. Consider having a fruit high in anti-oxidants, such as dark berries, or rich in vitamins, like a banana, to provide a catalyst for protein absorption allow your body to replenish depleted glycogen stores, spike insulin and speed recovery. Aim for 20 grams of protein and 50 to 75 grams of carbohydrates.

If you want to push it even further, you may want to consider adding in BCAAs, or branch chain amino acids, before, during or post-workout. BCAAs are an excellent workout supplement as they boost blood amino acid levels that may help elevate protein synthesis. (Basically, they help fuel your muscles so you can work harder and rebuild quicker).

Don’t forget your healthy fats. Consuming fat is essential to burning fat; just make sure it is from a healthy source, such as nut butters, avocados or olive oil, and you are consuming it in moderation. There is differing research on this topic, as some studies suggest that consuming fat immediately post-workout can hinder absorption of protein while others say the fat source combined with anti-oxidant rich foods such as cherries can help repair muscles and ease muscle soreness.

As will all nutrition information, everyone’s system is a little bit different, so play around with food options to find what is right for you. Just focus on whole foods to help your body perform its best.

Information provided by Julia Steggerda, Fitness World 24 – Downtown, 418 Sixth Ave., Suite 110, 288-1111.

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