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  • What to Eat Before and After Exercise by Robert Cheeke


    What to eat before exercise

    Before exercising it's important to fuel your body. Only then can you adequately handlethe physical stress of lifting weights, playing individual or team sports, or running.

    Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source of choice for our bodies to supply us withenergy. Fats are second. Proteins are the least effective fuel source of macronutrients.But they're the most important in muscle recovery and repair AFTER exercise.

    Since carbohydrates are the most efficient forms of fuel, they should be your first choiceto consume before exercising.

    I have two approaches when it comes to pre-workout nutrition:

    1) Immediate pre-workout strategies

    2) Prepared pre-workout strategies.

    I use the immediate approach when exercising within an hour of eating. For example,when fueling up on my way to the gym, or when eating breakfast within an hour of myworkout.

    Immediate fuel before workouts should be fruits. Fruits are amazing sources ofnutrition, energy, carbohydrates, and sugars, all extremely important components tofuel a workout. They are also easy on the stomach, digest easily and should not inhibitexercise performance even if consumed immediately before exercise.

    My favorite foods to consume just before exercise are bananas, oranges, apples, grapes,seasonal berries, mangos, pineapple and other fruits. I also use some natural sportsdrinks like Vega Sport Performance Optimizer. It's designed to supply your body withsustained energy while reducing inflammation. That speeds up the recovery process,enabling more frequent workouts. Check out the ingredients:

    For energy: Green tea, ginseng and yerba mate

    For reducing inflammation: ginger root, Devil's Claw and turmeric

    For mental focus and stamina: kombucha, coconut oil, and a host of other naturalingredients.

    Pre-workout energy drinks are not required. But the plant extracts they contain elicitan “energy boost” response in your body.

    I usually consume my immediate pre-workout nutrition within an hour before exercise,often only 15-30 minutes beforehand. Depending on the nature of my workout, Imight also eat more fruit during my workout and drink more Vega Sport PerformanceOptimizer during my workout. That provides additional calories, sugars, hydration andoverall energy.

    If you're headed to a weight training workout, or sports match or competition, keep abanana, apple, orange or bag of dates with you for continued nutrition throughout yourexercise. It won't feel heavy in your stomach but will actually help continue to fuel yourbody throughout the exercise.

    Prepared Pre-Workout Nutrition

    If I had a long workout later today, or a competition hours from now (or eventomorrow), I would do my prepared pre-workout nutrition now.

    When I know exercise is still many hours away, I fuel up with complex carbohydrateslike rice, pasta, potatoes, oats, etc. These carbohydrates are slow digesting and providesustained energy. That's why they're popular carbohydrates for runners, enduranceathletes and even bodybuilders.

    So suppose it's 12 noon, and you know you have a workout or sports event scheduledfor 6PM. Start fueling up with a variety of dense, heavy carbohydrate foods, proteinsources, and good fats (Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids).

    Eat large quantities of these carbohydrate foods, supplemented with protein andfats for a more complete meal. Then as you get closer, say around 3pm, take in morenutrition, something a little smaller and less heavy (whatever you desire: a protein bar,a salad, etc.).

    Then at about 5 - 5:30PM, pack in the fruit right before exercise. Fruits contain a lot ofwater which assist in exercise hydration, and digest quickly and easily while providingimmediate energy. You'll be all set for your 6PM soccer match, run, or the weighttraining session with your partner or friends.

    What to eat after exercise

    After exercise, the most important aspect of post-workout nutrition is the consumptionof protein. Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are responsible for the repairand recovery of muscle tissues. What does that mean?

    When you're exercising, you're actually creating micro tears in your muscles. Your bodyrequires amino acids (protein) to rebuild those muscle fibers so they can grow, getstronger and prevent injury.

    If you don't consume protein and a wide variety of amino acids after exercise, you makeyourself susceptible and potentially prone to injury from damaged muscle fibers waitingto be repaired. This can easily happen if you exercise hard, don't supply your body withadequate nutrition, and then exercise again the same day, the following day, or evenwhile stretching the damaged muscles afterward.

    Replenish your body not only with protein, but with carbohydrates and essential fatsas they all work harmoniously to get the body rested, recovered and ready to workoutagain in the near future. Since carbohydrates are the primary fuel source used up duringexercise, it becomes extremely important to consume carbohydrates after a workout ofany type to replenish fuel stores and other nutrients lost or eliminated during exercise.

    My favorite protein sources are dark greens, beans, legumes heavy foods like tofu,tempeh and seitan. Traditionally, after I complete a workout, my first desire is toconsume a protein drink or meal replacement drink.

    We call this hour immediately after exercise the “nutritional window of opportunity”.

    Why a protein drink? Nutrition in liquid form is much easier for your body to digest andassimilate than food that has to be chewed, broken down, swallowed and eventuallydigested or discarded.

    It's not that eating whole foods is bad. In fact, they're part of my post-workout nutritionprogram for sure. But the first step should be to get some sort of natural protein drink inyour body for immediate nutritional recovery from exercise. These can even be whole-food based, ground up whole foods in powder form. Added with water they make thenutrition assimilated much quicker, then a proper meal can follow 30 minutes later.

    There are many brands out there. I recommend the Vega product line because they usea wide variety of plant-based sources of protein, not just one or two, but five to give abalanced amino acid profile.

    Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer is a meal replacement powder, as well as a proteinpowder. That means it has five sources of protein (hemp, pea, rice, flax, and chlorella).It also has 100% RDA of vitamins and minerals, Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids,digestive enzymes, and antioxidants.

    It even has natural ingredients like the root vegetable maca, which helps nourishthe adrenal glands, combats elevated cortisol levels, and reduces stress. It's a primecandidate for post-workout nutrition. That's because it helps with recovery, reducesinflammation, and lowers stress. It's also vegan, sustainable, alkaline-forming andcommon-allergen free (free of soy, dairy, gluten, corn, and sugar). I use other Vegaproducts such as the Vega Sport Protein as well because it contains Branched ChainAmino Acids (BCAA's) and the amino acid commonly known for its assistance in musclerecovery, L-glutamine. I use other brands as well and enjoy a diversity of quick, nutrientdense protein and meal replacement drinks.

    After my protein drink, I focus on a meal based around whole foods or high protein/calorie foods. My post-workout meal is one of my largest meals of the day.

    Exercising and burning calories increases your appetite. So you need high protein/calorie foods to help your body recover. I tend to focus on burritos, sandwiches, largesalads, wraps, potatoes, yams, beans, lentils, quinoa and other heavy foods for my post-workout nutrition. I'm also a fan of ethnic foods. After exercise I often find myself at aThai, Indian, Mexican or Ethiopian food restaurant. That is just my preference but thegoal is to get nutrient dense foods post workout so choose your own favorite foods forone of your largest meals of the day.

    Remember to eat for nourishment and eat to thrive, be it before, during or after

    exercise. Fuel yourself well.

    All the best in health and fitness!

    Robert Cheeke

    @RobertCheeke on Twitter

    Robert Cheeke

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