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What to eat before and after a workout to build muscle and nourish your body

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women making smoothie juice pre-workout
  • If you're starting a new workout routine, eating properly helps you perform and recover better.
  • Eating the right carbs and protein also helps you build muscle better and avoid injuries.
  • Here, sports nutritionists share how to start eating healthier and what to eat before and after a workout.

It's a new year, and while aesthetic-focused resolutions like "Lose 10 pounds" should stay in the early 2000s, we do love a mile marker like January 1 to re-set intentions and habits. If you're looking for a chance to feel more energized, have a stronger immune system, and just feel better, make your intention for 2022 to exercise more and eat healthier. 

And if you've set fitness goals, you need to know how to use your diet to support your muscle gains or fat loss.

However, it's tough to overhaul your diet and your fitness at one time, Joni Boyd, PhD, CSCS, a NASM-certified trainer and associate professor of exercise science and coaching at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC told Insider.

So, the first step of setting an intention is whether you want to focus on eating healthier, or whether you want to focus on getting fit. Personally, we think setting fitness goals is a more beneficial route considering not moving enough is tied to several diseases, and research suggests that simply working out may influence your food choices for the better.

If your goal is to build muscle or lose weight, you'll want to make small changes to your diet that support your goal, Boyd explained.

Then, consider where you're starting: If your first step is getting into a consistent exercise routine, you don't need to make any drastic diet changes right away, said Heidi Skolnik, CDN, a sports nutritionist in the Women's Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Instead, focus on Step One below of how to start eating healthy.

When it's time to ramp up the intensity of your training, pay closer attention to your plate, which is where Steps Two and Three come in about what to eat before and after a workout.

Step 1: How to start eating healthy
woman grocery shopping

Whether your goal for 2022 is to get fit or eat healthier, there are a few basic principles to keep in mind to keep your energy levels up and your body supported with the nutrients it needs.

For starters, avoid super sugary drinks, Boyd says. Sugary drinks make up the majority of a day's calories for most Americans (especially children). That includes sports drinks, some of which can have more than 30 grams of sugar.

Instead, drink more water. Aim for 1 gallon per day, which can help you feel more energized. Motivational water bottles, which may look gimmicky and cheesy, can actually help you reach your daily water goal. And if you don't love plain water, try making spa water with frozen or fresh fruit and herbs.

The bottle keeps you on track to drink enough water throughout the day. There’s also an included straw and a cap to keep everything sealed, as well as a lanyard-like handle around the lid for easy carrying.



This 32-ounce BPA-free water bottle lets you infuse your water with the fruit and herbs of your choice for a tastier sip



As for what to eat, think more about what you should be eating instead of what you shouldn't. Focus on eating more complex carbs (like whole grains), lots of leafy green veggies, and stick to foods in their most natural state

These single-serving oat cups are completely gluten-free and fortified with additional protein and fiber.



Made from real food, you get a 1.4-ounce bar made of ingredients like nuts, dark chocolate, fruits and seeds. Sugars are low but protein is high enough to kick start recovery.  



Imperfect Foods is a service that delivers seasonal, "ugly" fresh fruit and veggies that are more affordable prices thanks to their unsightliness but still highly nutritious.



Step 2: What to eat before a workout
girl drinking smoothie pre-workout

What you eat before a workout determines how much energy you'll have to squat, jump, run, and lift harder.

Determining how to fuel your workouts comes down to the intensity, duration, and the number of times a week you work out, plus the time of day and your hunger levels, Skolnik said.

If you're working out first thing in the morning, consider a snack before. Skolnik added that some people perform better by eating 15 to 25 grams of carbs beforehand, which is equivalent to a half of a banana or a handful of crackers. It allows them to go harder and then breakfast serves as a recovery meal, she explained.

Other people don't always need that pre-workout snack. Also, you probably don't need a pre-workout supplement, which is intended to give you an energy boost before you hit the gym but in actuality, it makes most people jittery and nauseous and doesn't have much benefit for the average gym-goer.

If your goal is building muscle or strength, it's smart to eat something with 11 to 15 grams of protein, like a yogurt, before the gym, Skolnik says. If you're headed to the gym first thing in the morning, you can skip this step but make sure you're getting protein in your system quickly after you finish your workout.

Chomps Turkey Jerky sticks are a healthy snack for 10 grams of protein on the go.



A Koia protein shake delivers 18 grams of plant-based protein and is dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free.



Naked Whey Protein is third-party tested and has just one ingredient sourced from small dairy farms that mixes well with any shake — and it's tasty.



FAGE Total 2% is a rich, creamy all-natural Greek strained yogurt. It's a low-fat Greek yogurt with a perfect balance of rich flavor and creamy texture.



A 100% plant-based protein powder that's great for your health, tastes incredible and delivers epic results. A unique combination of bio-fermented pea protein, hemp protein and plant-based BCAAs.



Step 3: The best food to eat after workout
How to Start a New Workout Plan 3

What you eat after your workout determines how well your body recovers from said sweat session, as well as what kind of physical progress you'll see.

We go into a lot more detail here but generally, if you did a short run or a brisk walk, you don't really need to replenish in any additional way, other than your regular meals, Skolnik said. If you do a cardio routine (i.e. run, bike, swim) for more than 60 minutes, eat 30 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein, our nutritionists advised.

What to eat after a workout matters the most after strength training. Here, you want to think about 20-25 grams of high-quality protein and 10 grams of carbs post-weightlifting.

Your muscles are more open to repairing and rebuilding right after exercise, and they need that protein to rebuild your muscle fibers back bigger and stronger. However, as long as you get enough protein in 24 hours, you'll still gain the benefits, Skolnik said. 

Speaking of protein, it's often a hot topic and a much-used supplement among avid exercisers. But if you have some of the macronutrient every meal — roughly 20 grams or 3 to 4 ounces — you're likely getting enough, Skolnik advised.

She does mention that protein powders provide a convenient way to reach your daily quota, though. For reference, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight.

Here are a few other nutritional details to keep in mind:

1. Look for a quality protein powder.

If you do decide to have a protein powder, look for one with a third-party stamp of approval, like the NSF. You also want one that has leucine in it, an amino acid that helps stimulate protein synthesis, Skolnik said. Whey, egg, and soy proteins all have this but other plant-based protein powders may add it in, too.

Naked Whey Protein is third-party tested and has just one ingredient sourced from small dairy farms that mixes well with any shake — and it's tasty.



Vega Sport Plant-Based Protein Powder is the best tasting, most effective plant-based powder you can find, with a wide array of flavors and whopping 30 grams of protein.



Gainful is a completely personalized protein blend to meet your specific goals while adhering to your dietary restrictions, and offers access to a registered dietitian.



2. Start taking creatine supplements.

Despite the vast majority of workout supplements being snake oil or downright dangerous, creatine supplementation is proven to actually improve your workout performance — everything from sprinting power to strength — and help you shed fat and build lean body mass.

Studies show that supplementing with creatine, which is a natural substance found in our muscle cells that helps them produce the energy our body runs on, is safe both short and long-term (up to five years).

Look for a supplement that's 100% creatine monohydrate, like Optimum Nutrition, below. Our experts advise starting with 20 grams of creatine monohydrate (5g, four times a day) for seven days, then moving down into a maintenance dose of 2-5 grams per day.

Check out the label of Optimum Nutrition's Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder, and you'll see that it lists just one ingredient: creatine monohydrate. According to our experts, that's a major plus, because you don't want or need anything else in your creatine supplement.



3. Consider drinking more tart cherry juice.

Research suggests that tart cherry juice can assist in muscle recovery. Skolnik said the polyphenols may help fight off muscle soreness as they reduce inflammation and provide antioxidants.

The juice also has natural melatonin, which can help you sleep (this also aids in recovery, too, she said). 

I had never heard of Cheribundi before now, but it's apparently super popular, both for its tart taste and as a recovery drink for pro and collegiate baseball, football, and basketball players.



4. Eat more Vitamin C-rich foods.

Skolnik suggested foods like oranges, bell peppers, and broccoli, as they all contain vitamin C, a nutrient that can help with tissue repair. 

5. Stay hydrated.

Water should be your best friend, considering every cell in the body needs it to function, Skolnik added. You also need water for temperature regulation and hydration contributes to blood volume, transporting nutrients to and waste away from tissues and cells, and it allows for blood pressure regulation.

Without water, the heart has to work harder to pump enough blood to allow for oxygen to get to the working muscles. In other words, dehydration makes you feel more tired even when doing the same amount of work. So, grab another sip of that H2O.

And if you ever do cardio for more than 90 minutes, be sure you replenish your electrolytes. Vellers told us that she has a 64-ounce water bottle she aims to finish every day to keep up her hydration. 

The CamelBak Chute Mag Water Bottle is a budget-friendly option that's durable and easy to use.



NUUN is a popular product among the endurance set. It's standard offering comes in tablet form, but the endurance formula is a powder.



This coconut water is popular because it's packed with essential vitamins and minerals and has a refreshing taste.



Read the original article on Insider








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