It can feel like you’ve been marooned on a deserted island if you stay by yourself these days where social distancing has become the norm. With the closure of gyms and fitness studios, it’s all the more important that you be active and work out at home – not just to maintain a healthy body, but also for your mental well-being. It’s natural for your brain to tell you how exercise is boring – that’s how your brain treats anything that creates a sense of tension and discomfort in your body. Watch this if you don’t feel motivated enough to exercise and know that not exercising for extended periods can lead your mind to trick you into a feedback loop of gloom and despair.
Besides being mindful enough to work out regularly, it’s also important to eat right to achieve and maintain the net positive of a healthy lifestyle. Your body is like a car – it needs fuel to keep the engine running before and after you work out. There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to your body’s nutrition as everybody is biologically unique. However, consuming the right food before and after you work out can enhance the results you’re aiming for.
Contrary to popular belief, you’ll want to eat a meal high in carbs and protein and low in fat roughly 90 minutes before you exercise – irrespective of whether you’re trying to shed some pounds or build muscle. Your body relies on carbohydrates for its glycogen supply that it needs for a physically intensive task. Skip the carbs before you exercise, and your muscles will sputter when called on to perform. It’s essential that you also feed your body proteins to support the muscle cells as they break down and rebuild during and after exercise. The right proteins contain the amino acids your muscles need to complete that cellular rebuilding process. Avoiding fat in your pre-workout meal also has a reason – it slows down your digestion because all the blood is gushing toward the muscles when they’re being strained.
There’s another myth that revolves around how you shouldn’t eat anything at all before a workout if you’re trying to lose weight. It may indeed seem strange and counterproductive to eat a carb-heavy meal before you hit the gym. When broadly classified, carbs fall into two main categories – complex and refined. Complex carbs (like beans, lentils, whole grains, starchy vegetables) will fuel your exercise routine and additionally provide vital nutrients and fiber. Unlike refined carbs (like white bread, cookies, refined meat, soft drinks), complex carbs don’t supercharge your appetite or expand your personal equator.
As for post-workout food, despite what you’ve heard, it’s not necessary (or healthy) to gulp down a massive protein shake the second you stop pumping iron. Eating or drinking more protein should be an activity reserved for at least 60 minutes after you’re done working out. Complete protein packages include animal sources with amino acids, like chicken or lean beef. Grains like quinoa and bulgur, along with beans and some vegetables also contain protein, though probably not the ‘complete’ kind. However, the beauty of being a vegetarian is that the variety of protein-rich food sources is so diverse that you can skip meat altogether, yet get all the amino acids you need.
Now that you know what needs to be part of your diet when you work out, and why, here’s a bunch of stuff that should not be a part of your diet before working out.
Rich in fiber, flaxseed is very good for your body. But fiber before a workout can hamper your routine by making your stomach feel gassy and bloated. Ideally, you shouldn’t consume high fiber foods 2 hours before and after a workout. Other than flaxseed, you should also avoid bran, vegetable salads, fiber supplements and high-fiber baked goods.
It’s easy to get fooled by these so-called ‘protein bars’ sold in supermarkets. A lot of protein bars are high in calories and contain very little protein – just like a bar of chocolate. If your protein bar is less than 10 grams of protein, it could make your blood sugar level drop faster and even make you feel tired more quickly. But if you’re really fond of them, choose a protein bar that contains no more than 200 kcal with a 1:1 sugar to protein ratio.
Traditionally considered to be diet food, even low-fat milk can hamper your body from exercising properly. Dairy products are well known as a primary source of protein and can help your muscles recover, but high protein food and beverages make you drain out faster since they don’t contain enough carbs. Just like fats, proteins travel through blood slowly and make you feel dazed and shaky right after the meal.
Like dairy products, eggs too are a great source of pure protein but don’t have enough carbs for balanced energy. Eggs and milk behave alike in your stomach – they sit in there for a long time before getting digested, making you feel heavier during your workout. It’s better to replace your egg-based meal with a cheese and fruit salad, or go for a cup of plain Greek yogurt. Consider moving the boiled eggs to your post-workout meal.
Some of us take great pleasure in burning our tongues with spice, often an aftermath of great taste. Spicy food is indeed good for your diet too, as it helps you burn your calories faster. But, this wholesome value has little effect if you eat food loaded with spice before an exercise routine – a burned throat or stomach ache could easily ruin your workout session.
Any food that contains simple carbs and a high amount of sugar (yes, including those ‘healthy smoothies’) only provide temporary energy. High-sugar foods kill the good bacteria living in your stomach that aid the digestive system to function optimally. Consuming food high in sugar before a workout will increase your blood sugar level. You will feel the lack of continuity in the energy needed for your workout almost instantaneously, and can even make you faint in the middle of a workout session in extreme cases.
Having a meal high in carbs and proteins does not equate to gorging on junk food – something that contains a lot of fat and needs at least 5 hours to be fully digested. When there is such an excruciating need for the food to be digested, the heart focuses on pumping blood to the stomach to help the process. This decreases the volume of blood flow to the muscles, which is what you need to perform heavy-duty physical activities. Even healthy snacks (like cheese, almonds & avocados) can make you sluggish.
Is there a particular reason why fat-based foods are looked down upon in general?
Your body considers the process of converting fat into energy to be inefficient when compared to carbs or protein. The complex process of digesting fats can cause your muscles cramps and discomfort in the stomach. Choose rice, pasta, potatoes, fresh vegetables and meat that are processed as simply as possible coupled with water to build the ideal balance of everything required for a healthy, happy body.
The best at-home workouts don’t necessarily require a ton of equipment. That’s good news for exercisers who don’t have dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, or any of those other fitness accessories at home. But those of you who do miss the gym, there’s no shortage of options on a whole rack of equipment at your disposal that will keep your exercise routines going. Head over here to explore a wide array of basic fitness accessories that will enhance your fitness regime. Additionally, discover curated packages that are bundled for better training and more savings!