Regular gym goers and other serious athletes understand that the right food in their stomachs is the key to an effective workout. In this case food really is fuel. However, if you are new to the exercise world you need to understand that moderation is the route to go. There is no point in filling your stomach to the brim if you are a beginner. This way you will take in more calories than what you will burn off.
HIGH OR LOW INTENSITY WORKOUT
To establish what the right food would be for a workout, you need to have answers to a few questions. What is the intensity of my work out? Am I eating at the right time during my work out? Am I eating the right portion size for my work out?
LOW INTENSITY WORKOUT
Low intensity work outs like Pilates or yoga will use virtually no fuel, hence no extra glucose is required to restore energy. The body can rely on what is already stored inside it. Carb burning exercises, however, will need constant replacement of what is used up as they break down to glucose easily, which is what provides energy.
HIGH INTENSITY (HEAVY) WORKOUT
For a heavy exercise routine, it is advisable to eat food containing fibre about 2 hours before training starts as it takes longer to break down. Sweet potato or whole wheat bread will suffice. If you are only able to eat something closer to your exercise time, you need to eat something that will break down fast. Snack on fruit like dates or dried mango. Fruit juice will also do the job.
In general, gym goers only need to consume up to 2000 calories per day. Try to eat a banana or apple about half an hour before you go off to the gym. There are some serious gym junkies that make special energy balls containing protein fats, protein and carbs.
Gluten-Free Tahini Oat Bites
These gluten-free Tahini Oat Bites contain just under 200 calories each and can be stored in the fridge. The below recipe will provide 10 servings.
1.5 cups of oats
3 tablespoons of honey or syrup
¼ cup of tahini
1 tablespoon of flax seeds
¼ cup of grated dark chocolate
Blend ½ a cup of the dry oats until it is a powder. Add the powdered oats, remaining oats, tahini, flax seeds and honey to a large bowl. Mix thoroughly with a spoon. Lastly, mix in the dark chocolate. Make small balls using your hands (about the size of a ping pong ball) and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Refrigerate for at least an hour before eating. The rest can be stored in the fridge.
Each ball will render about 200 calories, 4 grams of fibre; 10 grams of fat; 6 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein.
PRE & POST WORKOUT MEALS
People are under the impression that they can eat what they want because they will burn it off in the gym. Experts disagree. What we eat is more important than going to a gym. Certain food needs to be eaten before going to the gym, and others after.
Before going to gym, it is important to fuel up on carbs and protein. Bananas, dried fruits, a light while wheat sandwich, or a fruit smoothie would be ideal carb fillers, while soy milk, nuts, eggs or a protein shake would be helpful.
Equally important is that you stay hydrated. To know how much water to drink, take your weight and divide the kgs by 30. For example, if you weigh 75kg, and it is divided by 30, you need to drink 2.5l of water per day.
Never eat fat-rich foods like butter on bread or cheese before you go to the gym. These may make you feel bloated. Of ingested, wait for at least three hours before you go to the gym.
As soon as you are done at the gym, grab a healthy snack. Your body needs to replenish the glycogen that was used while exercising. These include dried fruit, protein shakes, yoghurt, or muesli.
If your exercise regime was for 45 minutes or longer, make sure to replenish the proteins that your body requires. The formula to work out how much protein you require is this: use your weight and multiply this first by 0.4 and then 0.5. The sums will be the grams of protein that your body needs daily.
Start weighting yourself before and after a workout. The difference will be the water lost during your workout. For every kg lost, drink half a litre of water.
During exercise you will need carbs, heart-healthy fats, lean protein, and fluids. Our muscles rely on carbohydrate foods like rice, breads, pasta, cereals, vegetables and fruits and for energy.
Protein is required to bring oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.
Stay clear of fried food and drink plenty of fluids.
DO NOT EAT THIS WHILE TRAINING
Foods NOT to eat while going to gym:
Flaxseed. Although rich in fibre, it can make you boated, which will affect your workout. This should not be eaten at all in the 2 hours before hitting the gym. Other fibres to avoid include vegetable salads or bran.
Protein bars can be misleading. Most protein bars contain the minimum protein but over 200 calories. You may as well eat a slab of chocolates. Protein bars containing less than 12g of protein van make you feel sluggish. Eat a bar that contains the same sugar and protein ratio.
Fast food contains high fats and takes up to 4 hours before it is completely digested. Avoid at all cost as the sodium levels in these foods can affect the fluid intake during your exercise regime.
Dairy products, even low-fat milk, can affect your workout. High protein foods will drain your energy faster.
Sugar will only provide temporary energy, not the continuous type needed for a good workout. Too much sugar disturbs the absorption of the correct nutrients. Avoid isotonic drinks, orange juice, energy drinks and gassy cold drinks at all cost.
Boiled eggs are an excellent source of protein but does not contain enough carbs to provide balanced energy. Eggs will make you feel sluggish as they take a long time to digest. Avoid raw eggs before a gym session as they contain salmonella that may cause diarrhoea. Instead of eggs, rather eat a cup of plain yogurt or a fruit salad.
Spicy foods are a no-no. They may burn calories faster, but if consumed before a gym session, you may end up with a stomach-ache that will hamper the training.
Green bananas are to be avoided completely. Even yellow bananas should not have green spots on the peel.
Caffeine may provide additional energy before a workout, but it can affect your sleeping pattern. A lack of sleep means a lack of energy for any exercise.
Declared a stimulant of the central nervous system, caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world. This is because it is a legal substance and is completely unregulated.
A frequent question asked is whether caffeine users will benefit when doing high intensity exercises or partake in endurance sports. The answer is ‘yes’, but only if the right dosage is taken. 400mg or less per person, and about 40 minutes before a workout will have distinct advantages.
This powerful ‘drug’ increases arousal and alertness, and the result is that exercising seems easier. Proven test results show that caffeine helps fat burning in muscles, and helps muscles perform for longer before becoming tired. As it is absorbed by the body at a fast rate, the effects of stimulation are at its best around 50 minutes after congestion.
It is a myth that exercise will remove caffeine from the body because the liver is not affected by exercise, and this is the organ that will eventually remove caffeine from our bodies.
This powerful substance that can enhance mental and physical performance. A correct dose can improve exercise performance, awareness and fat burning significantly. This substance is found in many beverages and foods and can remain in the blood stream for up to 4 hours before dropping. It also has an effect of the brain and muscle cells, hence the varied effect it has on people.
It has positive effects on endorphins, the hormone that makes people feel ‘euphoric’, and this is felt when working out. Lipolysis, the breakdown of fat in fat cells, is also activated by caffeine. The motor cortex, a section of the brain that signals muscles to perform, is also stimulated by caffeine.
The intake of caffeine increases heat production in human bodies, which assists in burning calories.
Some organizations have now started banning the use of caffeine by endurance athletes as tests have proven that athletes that used caffeine performed better than those that did not. The effect on untrained athletes, however, is not as significant. Cyclists and swimmers benefit from the use of caffeine, but it is not banned in those fields as studies are still ongoing.
A study has found that caffeine has no effect on lower body strength training or cycling sprints, but it improves leg muscle power by just under 10%. There is a significant benefit to those that do bench presses and improves muscle endurance in repetitive workouts or circuit training.
You will find that caffeine is a basic common ingredient in weight loss supplements as the intake of this drug increases release of body fat by about 30% before and after a workout.
The bad news is that humans can develop a tolerance to caffeine. Side effects of too much caffeine intake is insomnia, irritability, anxiety or dizziness, and it can even cause becoming gravely ill, or even death in some cases. Use it cautiously and consult a specialist if in doubt, especially if you have underlying heart diseases or high blood pressure.
From now on, we should all take a good look at what we put in our mouth as it may have devastating effects on our health and training. Always remember to hit your protein and stay safe kids.