When you’re working out on a regular basis, no matter what the workout is, feeding your body properly makes a huge difference in your success. It’s not just the meals you eat throughout the day but when you eat them and what you eat in between, if at all.
My coach in college was especially adamant about 2 things, eat before practice and eat after practice. When it’s 4:30 in the morning eating a full breakfast probably doesn’t seem like a good idea – and it probably isn’t. At that point you’re lucky you managed to pry yourself out of bed let alone make any food but, it doesn’t have to be that involved. If you’re not used to it, it might also take some easing into but the addition of a small snack before your workout can make a significant difference in your performance during your workout. It’s really simple – if you’re working out in the morning the last time you ate was probably somewhere between 10-12 hours ago! What energy does your body have to work with? If you are working out during the day it won’t have been that long ago but giving your body something to actively burn while you workout allows it to effectively do what you’re asking of it.
Usually you’ll find me sneaking a bite of Clif Bar out on the water between pieces because once you feel the difference a little food makes it becomes a necessity. Try to avoid anything super high in sugar or protein, include a balance of some carbs and some protein, just generally make it something healthy. Going for a little bit of everything is a safe bet. My go to is usually a Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip LARABAR. They’re pretty small compared to most bars. They contain only dates, peanuts, chocolate chips and sea salt. Nothing fake, you know exactly what all of that stuff is and it all provides a little bit of the basic nutrients to fuel your body. Since they are so simple you can also just search online for all kinds of easy recipes to make them yourself.
Now, you just did an hour or more of crazy intense rowing, cross-training or weights. You know its gonna hurt tomorrow (and… probably the next day). That hurt is your body getting stronger as it heals the muscle tissues you just stretched while you pushed yourself during that 4 x 2k workout. This process also deserves some nutrients. It is best to start refueling within 15 minutes after you finish your workout. Since most of us aren’t at home or even near any food within that time make sure you are always packin’ some protein! (and carbs) I find one of those little chocolate milk boxes in my rowing bag works the best. You don’t have to worry about refrigerating it and it’s packed with carbs and protein that will go right to work rebuilding and replenishing your muscles. There are other options such as yogurt, low fat smoothie, peanut butter and a banana – or… you could get crazy and start throwing back some pickle juice. I’m serious. There have been recent studies that support the idea that pickle juice has many qualities that will stop muscle cramps. It’s worth a try!
If you haven’t been practicing pre and post workout fueling you’ll want to test out different timings with each and find something that works right for you. Try for 1-3 hours before your workout and 15-30 min after your workout. If even if you think a little food is going to make you feel sick while you workout, take the time to find something that won’t. Try different food options and try to keep them simple, and all natural, as much as possible. High fructose corn syrup is not something you want to be feeding your hard working muscles. Read the ingredients and make sure you know what they are. Also – don’t introduce this fueling schedule on race day.
Since our muscles support us it is very important we support them – especially while we are trying to push them to become better. Pre and post workout food, if you are not already eating it, is a small change that can make a big difference. Try it for yourself, find the foods that work and then see what it can do for you. Good nutrients = good athletes.
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