This morning my gym was packed out with newcomers, and I actually enjoyed seeing the January rush! Usually I try to workout outside to avoid the crowds for the first 3 weeks of the year, but as I did my mini-cardio routine to keep my heart in shape this pregnancy I couldn’t help but do a little people-watching. It was pretty obvious who was a regular and who was trying to figure out gym protocol and a good fitness program. For those starting out on a new fitness program, it is crucial to fuel your body for exercise, regardless of whether you are trying to gain muscle or lose weight. Here’s a few tips to get the most out of your workout.
1) Get hydrated beforehand by sipping on water throughout the day, and if you will be exercising for more than 30 minutes bring a water bottle with you. If you are working out more than an hour a sports drink is helpful; if you are working out at a high intensity for more than 2 hours try a sports drink with added amino acids (cytomax is a popular brand among athletes.)
2) Get fed. Never do strength-building on an empty stomach in the morning. Eat at least 2 hours before a workout, but nothing heavy within 30 minutes if you are going to be doing high-intensity exercise. Good pre-workout snacks include peanut butter sandwiches, banana and yogurt, cereal and milk, or a granola bar.
3) Re-fuel after the workout – if you have been exercising hard for more than 45 minutes. Eat a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein within the “hour of power,” or the first hour post-workout. At least 7, but no more than 20 grams of protein is ideal for resynethesizing muscle fibers. More than 20 grams of protein and you are just gulping excess calories that could turn to fat and making your stomach work harder than it should. Chocolate milk has been shown to be better than many protein drinks at rehydrating and replenishing muscle stores, but a sandwich with 2 slices of bread with a couple slices of meat, 2-3 oz of tuna, or some low-fat cheese is a great post-workout snack as well. Steer clear of high-fat foods like nachos or anything fried – fat slows down the absorption of the nutrients your body needs.
4) Eat your fruits and veggies throughout the day. Exercise is a great stressbuster, but it also creates stress as your body recovers from each workout. Give your muscles a recovery boost with the antioxidants and phytochemicals it needs for quick recovery by eating 5-7 cups of fresh or frozen fruits and veggies each day.