Eating to Support a Workout Program

By Michael Gill

Like so many other topics involving nutrition, this one will seem pretty confusing if you search for answers on the internet.  There is certainly a wide variety of information out there, much of which is not in agreement.  While most people are concerned about what to eat before working out, it is actually what you eat afterwards that will probably make the bigger difference in your health. 

The body, when given the right materials (i.e. food), will see that it is ready for a workout.  This is evolution; if there is a predator, or some other life threatening situation, the body has to be ready.  This process of readying the body will happen long before a workout.  So, what you choose to eat immediately before a workout may make a small difference, but what you eat in the days before is more important.  This begins the moment after you finished your last workout.

Two major things happen during a quality workout.  Your body will deplete its glycogen stores (glycogen is the term for glucose stored in the muscles, which is used for energy) and there will be micro-tears in your muscles.  These micro-tears are rebuilt with greater strength, causing the muscles to become stronger.  Doing so requires protein, which is why so many sources will insist on protein immediately after a workout.  While this is a good idea, replenishing your glycogen stores should be a greater priority.  The best way to do this is a recovery drink, or something equivalent, rich in electrolytes with a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.  This would best consumed within 30 minutes of a workout, and would be followed by a protein-rich meal 30-60 minutes after the workout.

I hesitate to make such specific recommendations to everybody, as people have a tendency just to shake their heads and ignore things that sound too complicated.  If this is too much planning for you, just drink a recovery drink after the workout.  Eat a healthy meal shortly after the workout, when your appetite demands it (do not starve yourself!), adding some extra protein.  The most important thing is to avoid the temptation to eat the first, easiest thing you come across.  That burger/pizza/whatever your favorite comfort food is will still be there tomorrow.  If you must have it, have it then.  An exercise program will allow you to eat more.  Making those choices healthy ones can be the difference between feeling healthier and feeling run down.

It is always optimal to create your own meals, snacks and drinks using fresh ingredients.  When time or circumstance doesn’t allow for this, One With Heart stocks quality products for pre and post workouts.

Lemon Lime Recovery Drink

Mix the following in a blender until smooth:

  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Juice of ¼ lime
  • 5 medjool dates
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
  • 1 tablespoon hemp protein
  • 1 tsp ground dulse flakes
  • 1 tsp hemp oil
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest

If you have a strong blender (vitamix or the like), skip the lemon zest and put in the ¼ lime with peel.  The dates provide the natural sugars to replenish your glycogen.  The dulse provides sodium and the fruits all provide potassium, to help replenish your electrolytes.  The protein provided by the hemp protein bring the mixture close to the 4:1 carb/protein ratio.

As with all dietary advice given, I recommend eating a clean, healthy diet stressing fresh vegetables between workouts.  Eating a wide variety of fresh, natural foods will not only see that your protein needs are met, it will help ensure that you get as many micronutrients as possible.

Michael Gill is a practicing Nutritional Therapist and Massage Therapist.  He has a black belt in Poekoelan Tjiminde Poekoelan, and loves to teach.