Gotham Skinny decodes: Foods for workouts

Here’s the scenario.  You’re late, you’re running to the gym, you haven’t eaten in several hours because you’ve been running around all day.  Midway through cardio, you feel like you’re close to keeling over because you’re so hungry.  Your workout ends up sucking because you have no energy, and then you get home and inhale everything in the fridge.

Ok so we’ve all been there.  Bad planning and a crazy schedule all converge to create a not-so-fun situation.  So here’s the scoop on how to fuel your workouts and eat to build lean muscle.  Meals before and after workout should contain some sort of high-quality carbohydrate and a lean source of protein.

Also, another insanely important piece is HYDRATE, hydrate, hydrate.  Keeping yourself hydrated prior to workouts (about 16 oz of water before you workout) and during (about 4 to 8 oz every 20 minutes) and after (18-24 oz in the hour after you workout) helps flush out the toxins you build up in your system while you workout.  If you get bored of just plain water, try squirting in a little lemon or lime juice or drink seltzer, which hydrates in the same way, but is a little more exciting.

For the Early Birds:

If you’re getting up at the crack of dawn to workout, try to squeeze in a little food beforehand (if you can stomach it – and some people can’t at an early hour).  Try something easily digestible — a banana, a piece of wheat toast with a little peanut or almond butter, or a small yogurt.  The important thing is to make sure you eat something afterwards to replenish your system and give you energy for the rest of the day.  This is where I would put your traditional breakfast — things like oatmeal with blueberries and slivered almonds, an egg white omelette with whole wheat toast, or an english muffin with cream cheese and tomato.  You get the idea.

For the Lunch-Break Warriors:

If you’re a mid-day kind of person, it’s not so critical that you eat something beforehand (unless you’re starving of course), assuming you’ve had some sort of breakfast meal today.  Eating a mid-morning snack such as a piece of fruit or some whole wheat crackers with string cheese should hold you over until you get back to your desk for your post-workout lunch.

The important thing is WHAT you eat AFTER you workout.  Good lunch ideas are: A turkey sandwich with a little avocado on whole wheat bread, a spinach salad with chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers (any raw veg really) — beans are great for post-workout because they are high in both good carbs and protein, or a heartier soup with a small whole grain roll.

For the Evening Athletes:

For those of you who are working out in the late afternoon and evening, snacking strategically is more important here.  It’s the end of the day, and your energy is probably lower, so having a snack an hour or two before you workout can provide a much-needed boost and prevent you from being ravenous later.  Some great snacks include: an apple with 1 or 2 tbsp of natural almond butter, low-fat string cheese with some whole wheat crackers (try kashi brand), carrots and celery with hummus, greek yogurt with fruit, or a small bowl of oatmeal.

After your workout, make sure you try to within the hour, because that’s when your muscles are most receptive to the nutrients you will consume.  Again, a mix of protein and carbohydrates will help to repair your muscles and help you make the most of your workout.  My perfect evening post-workout meal is roasted salmon with sautéed spinach and brown rice.  Salmon is packed with protein and also a great source of omega-3 fats, which are good for your heart, smoothes your skin, hair and nails, and will keep you satiated.

Here’s to rockin it in your next workout session!

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