Many people who are still novices in strength training think that the only thing that really matters is what they do in the gym during their workout. As important as that is, it’s only part of intense strength training. What you do and the food you eat before your workout is just as crucial.
Not preparing your body for strenuous exercise could lead to a painful injury, and you won’t get the results you want if you don’t eat the right foods. Making time for the gym and sticking to a workout regimen is still the most important part of your strength training, but here are some tips on what you should do when you’re not lifting.
What You Should Eat
When you’re lifting weights and focus primarily on strength training, your body will be using carbohydrates as fuel, so any foods rich in low-glycemic carbs will be helpful as will foods that are high in protein.
Protein will help your body recover after a strength training workout while it facilitates the muscle-building process. Most experts recommend eating a small meal consisting of foods such as nuts, brown rice, sweet potatoes, vegetables, and all-bran grains before you work out. Ideally, you should have a carb-protein- fat breakdown of 40-40- 20 for a pre-workout meal. This means that your meal should consist of 40 percent carbohydrates, 40 percent protein, and 20
Digestibility is key as well; you don’t want to load up on too many high-protein foods that will make you want to vomit as you’re moving through your workout. Try to eat a small meal consisting of the foods we’ve discussed above about 90 to 120 minutes before your workout. That should provide your body with the fuel it needs to get you through your session without weighing you down and making you feel sick. If you need an extra energy boost when it gets closer to your
workout time, a small snack consisting of 200 to 250 calories about an hour before hitting the gym should tide you over.
If you’re not sure what to eat for your pre-workout meal, a good example would be a bowl of rolled oats, peanut butter, sliced banana, and milk. For a snack, consider fruits such as apples and bananas, protein bars, and nuts. Remember to keep your snack small so you don’t feel too full during your workout. It should be just enough to keep hunger pangs at bay.
What you eat after a workout can also make a difference in your strength-training efforts. While many trainers and bodybuilders like to think that you should be chugging protein shakes immediately after leaving the gym, that isn’t necessary. As long as you have a meal that is rich in carbohydrates and protein within three hours after finishing your workout, you won’t lose any gains that you’ve made.
A good post-workout meal should include foods such as oatmeal, fruit, eggs, turkey, and lean beef. As long as you have about 25 grams of protein and plenty of carbohydrates, you should be fine. The protein will help build and repair muscle, while the carbohydrates will help you regain the energy you spent during your workout.
What Not to Eat
If you’re just starting out with your strength training or you’re just lifting to stay in shape, you don’t have to think too hard about what you need to eat. As long as you stick to low-glycemic carbohydrates and include plenty of protein in your diet, you’ll be okay. However, there are still some foods that you should avoid.
Most of these are high-glycemic carbohydrates such as white bread, corn chips, flaky cereal, instant oatmeal, sugar, honey, and russet potatoes. Simply put,
they offer the wrong kind of carbohydrates that you need for a successful workout. They might give you a temporary energy boost, but you are more likely to crash once that energy is gone.
What to Do Before and During a Workout
What you eat before going to the gym is important, but you should still focus on what to do immediately before your workout. First of all, never start out “cold” when you’re lifting weights. You should spend five to ten minutes warming up with some stretching and light aerobic exercises before you even touch any weights. Go for a quick jog, spend time on an ellpitical machine, or engage in some step aerobics. This will get your blood flowing, your muscles limber, and prepare your body to start burning fat.
Once you do start lifting weights, it’s important to train to the point of failure. This means lifting as much weight as you can until you cannot lift anymore. You shouldn’t go so heavy that you end up hurting yourself, but it should never be too easy for you. If you have a personal trainer, talk to them about how to intensify your workout without hurting yourself.
When you do lift, never lock your elbows or your knees as this puts too much pressure on your joints and can lead to injury. Your joints should be loose, which means your elbows and knees should be slightly bent. Finally, remember to breathe when you lift. A lot of weight training novices make the mistake of holding their breath when they work out, which only makes lifting harder. Remember to exhale as you lift, and inhale as you relax your muscles.
When it comes to any kind of exercise regimen, the most important thing is to be consistent. Nobody achieves perfect results immediately even when they do everything they are supposed to do according to their trainer and their doctor. Keep working out and eating the right foods, and you will achieve results, even if you have to wait for them.