Fuel your workout: healthy meal ideas for athletes
By GO Veggie! Nutrition Ambassador Katie Cavuto-Boyle, RD, MS
Baseball season is back in full swing, with this week marking the 2013 MLB All-Star Break. As the dietitian for the Philadelphia Phillies, I am constantly coming up with ideas for healthy meals to fuel the players. Unlike a professional athlete, you do not need to eat many more calories on days that you work out compared to days that you do not. Some general guidelines can be beneficial to anyone looking to be active.
Keep in mind it is much easier to eat several hundred calories than it is to burn them through exercise, and for most of us we are working out for health reasons as well as to achieve a caloric deficit for weight loss or maintenance. The timing and type of foods you eat before and after your workouts can help to boost your energy during your training and your recovery afterwards.
When you work out, your muscles use glycogen for energy. Glycogen is your muscles’ form of stored carbohydrates. Muscles themselves are made up of protein. Therefore, the two most important nutrients to keep in mind when fueling your workout are carbohydrates and protein.
You may have heard that if you work out in the morning, you should do so on an empty stomach in order to burn more fat. While you may end up burning a greater percentage of fat by working out on an empty stomach, you will burn less total fat overall because you will not have the energy needed to exercise hard. Instead you should make sure to eat something before you work out, even in the mornings. Ideally, you should try to eat a mix of carbohydrates and protein one to three hours before your workout. However, this is not always possible if you exercise first thing in the morning.
In any case, try to eat a small, easily digestible, non-dairy snack pre-exercise then wait 20 to 30 minutes to work out to avoid stomach cramping. Everyone is different. You may find you do not have any problems with stomach cramping or for you, 30 minutes may not be long enough. You should adjust your eating schedule according to your comfort. It is best to avoid dairy/lactose before a work-out as it can upset your stomach.
Pre-work out snack ideas:
• Handful of grapes and a hard-boiled egg
• Mini bagel or whole grain English muffin with GOVeggie! Dairy Free, Vegan Cream Cheese
• Whole grain crackers with peanut butter
• Banana with almond butter
After your workout, you will want to replenish your body with carbohydrates and protein as well. The carbohydrates will help to replenish your muscles’ glycogen stores and the protein will help repair and rebuild the muscle fibers you broke down during your workout. Choose low fat options like GO Veggie! Lactose Free Cheese which has no saturated fat or cholesterol, so the protein and carbohydrates can digest easily. Remember, you don’t necessarily want to consume all of the calories you just worked hard to burn so think small or, if is close to meal time skip the snack and have a regular meal instead.
Post work-out Snacks:
• 4-8 ounces of dairy free chocolate milk alternative like chocolate soy milk
• Hummus and pita
• Greek yogurt or a yogurt alternative like coconut milk yogurt and fruit
• Grilled cheese with GO Veggie! Lactose Free Slices
No matter what, do not try to skip meals to save calories. Instead fuel yourself wisely to get maximum results from your workout.
Research: Amanda Thomas