People who want to lose weight often focus solely on exercising more. But, as personal trainer Ilija Jahura explains, what you put in your body is actually the key to losing weight, not how you ask your body to move.
If you want to lose weight, you have to start by eating a nutritious diet. Then, you need to optimize the food you eat both before and after you work out, so that you can get the most out of the exercise you do.
Here are some of the best foods to eat pre- and post-workout to help you maximize your exercise.
Pre-Exercise Food Choice
In an ideal world, you would eat a meal that has a nice mix of protein, carbohydrates and fat before your workout. This mix of nutrients will give your body all the energy it needs to complete the workout in its entirety, at the full intensity of your choosing.
Examples could include a sandwich of a lean meat and low-fat cheese on whole grain bread. On the side, you can have fruit such as an apple and even some nonfat yogurt. Or, you could opt for whole wheat pasta served with a salad and meatballs made with a lean meat.
Pre-Exercise Food Timing
It’s also important to time your pre-exercise meal properly. Ideally, you would eat this meal roughly three hours before you exercise. This will give your body time to process the food you ate and convert it into the energy you’ll use during the workout.
You might not have all this time, though, especially if you like to exercise in the mornings. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Just adjust what you’re eating.
The general rule of thumb is that the closer you eat to the time you exercise, the smaller your “meal” should be. Options if you’re eating closer to your workout are hard boiled eggs, dates or even a handful of almonds.
Just make sure to leave at least 30 minutes before eating and exercising.
Post-Exercise Food Choice and Timing
After you have completed your exercise, your body will be starving for nutrients. What you put in your body in the first 30 minutes following your workout is crucial for replacing energy you lost and helping your body build muscle rather than fat.
Even if your focus is to lose weight and not build muscle, keep in mind that the more muscle your body has, the more calories you’ll be able to burn — even when you’re resting.
Ilija Jahura suggests eating a meal that includes both protein and carbs. This will aid in replacing glycogen and also building muscle.
Solid food choices include eggs, turkey, chicken breast, tofu, vegetables, whole grains and cottage cheese or low-fat Greek yogurt. You could opt for a protein shake, too, but be careful of how many calories they have and what else is in them.
Finally, don’t forget that you need to drink, too. You need to stay hydrated before, doing and after your exercise so that your body can perform at its peak. Make sure you rehydrate with water, and stay away from sugary sports drinks if you’re trying to lose weight.
About Ilija Jahura
Ilija Jahura is a fitness and health expert based out of Kelowna, British Columbia. His main focuses include diet planning, cardiovascular development, as well as hypertrophy training and muscle-building. But at the end of the day, Ilija is committed to helping his clients become the best possible version of themselves — not only in the gym but also in life — by helping them achieve their dreams and goals.