Working Out – To Eat Or Not To Eat

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Protein Intake Before Working Out

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There is a common myth out there to simply eat NOTHING before working out. The idea is this will somehow do you more good (weight loss perhaps), but you have to ask yourself “how can that be good for me”? Depriving your body of any nutrients and then putting the demands of a work out on it, only forces your body to find the energy needed within the body itself. You lose muscle mass to feed your body instead of feeding it ahead of time with the building blocks of protein, giving you the ability to create new muscle.

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So then it should be obvious why you need to eat protein before working out, like a whey protein smoothie. It is common sense to feed your body well prior to exertion, but there are some actual reasons that explain why it is so important. Protein fuels your muscles. It also strengthens your mental outlook because you know your body is fueled and that you will have more stamina to get through your work out. You avoid feeling hungry and can now not focus on having an empty stomach and instead on your exercise program. You avoid becoming hypoglycemic (having low blood sugar levels) which can cause dizziness, headaches and sometimes nausea, which is not a good feeling when you are trying to work out and feel energized.

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If you like to work out early first thing in the morning, many personal trainers and nutritionists recommend that you consume a minimum of 25 grams of protein before you work out balanced with some healthy carbs for fast replenishing energy. After sleeping all night, your body is in a catabolic state (muscle wasting) and by supplying it with at least 25 grams of easily digested protein, such as a whey protein shake, will give it an instant shot of amino acids that will boost the body’s metabolism, increasing both fat burning and muscle building throughout the day. The best tip for the average exerciser is to eat an appropriate portion of protein balanced with healthy carbs and healthy fats, 1-3 hours before working out to allow time to digest and make sure your gas tank has fuel in it for your best work out.

Protein Intake After Your Work Out 

It is fairly common to have a suppressed appetite following a work out, especially a vigorous one or one with heavy cardio, but it is still recommended that you should replenish your body with another dose of easily digested protein (25-30 grams) along with some healthy carbs after your work out. The post work out window of time to do this is usually within an hour of your last rep or stretch. This gives your body and muscles an immediate protein and energy fuel source to prevent it from breaking down your own muscle tissue for energy. It generates similar benefits as a pre-work out dose, but more importantly now this protein aids your body in rebuilding during the post work out recovery period. Not only does protein restore the energy you used up working out and repair the muscles, but it can also reduce the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) following a work out.

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They key to the optimal protein intake for your pre-work out and post work out is to find what works best for you. What we choose to eat, the timing of it, the type of exercise we do, the length and the intensity of our work out, all play a big role. We are each unique in our bodies and individual needs and  requirements, but also factors such as our age, health issues, our stress levels, emotions, food allergies, caffeine intake, hormones, sleep levels, hydration….and so many other everyday life factors can play a role. One central belief that is agreed upon by most all nutrition experts is that you need to feed your body well. The saying “you are what you eat” is absolutely true, so feeding our bodies enough healthy protein cannot be stressed enough, not just for having a good work out, but to sustain our brain, heart and organs every day.

Figuring out the perfect timing and quantities of those healthy and well balanced protein meals is now up to you! Try it until you perfect it, so you will always be protein healthy.

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