Here's what we'll cover in this article:
- Why You Need Recovery Nutrition (running, strength training, yoga, dancing...all are activities you'll get more out of with intelligent nutrition)
- Pre-Workout Priorities (hydration, electrolytes/minerals and fueling)
- During-Workout Priorities (hydration and fueling)
- Post-Workout Priorities (supporting your body in the recovery/rebuilding process)
Don't Waste Your Workouts
The connection between nutrition and fitness is also one that can be seen clearly and there is huge potential to support your fitness practices by being intelligent about the foods you eat before, during and after a workout. In fact, if you're not eating in a way that supports your workout, you are in effect "wasting" a lot of the work you've done.
Getting results in body composition and general well-being doesn't come from a focus on burning calories and losing pounds. Focusing on those traits produces mediocrity at best. If we want to look and feel amazing and perform at a high level, the focus should be on being fit, strong, flexible, grounded and connected. "Cutting calories" is not the way to get these results.
Rather, results come from supporting your body with intelligent nutrition so you get lean and strong as fast as possible. While the whole of what you eat is important, what you put in your body before, during and after your workout has the greatest impact on how quickly you progress.
If you're not optimizing your pre- and post-workout nutrition, you're in effect "throwing away" muscle, fitness, performance and well-being you should have gained. "Workouts" are not restricted to lifting weights or running (or other "conventional" workouts) either.
If you do a strenuous yoga or pilates class, for example, you absolutely stand to gain a lot from being smarter about your nutrition before and after class. The same applies to a game of basketball, rock climbing, dancing or essentially anything else that leaves your body tired when you're done.
Before Your Workout
Pre-workout priorities are hydrating and fueling (when necessary). As with nutrition during and post-workout, what you should be focusing on pre-workout depends entirely on the type of workout you're about to do.
Most workouts don't require special fueling beforehand. Even if your haven't eaten recently, your body generally has more than adequate fuel on hand stored in your liver and muscles in the form of glycogen. If you are doing strength training, yoga/pilates, rock climbing or anything else of short-to-medium duration, this will almost always be sufficient.
In a longer workouts (generally greater than an hour), it is possible to exhaust these glycogen stores. This is particularly relevant for endurance sports such as running, cycling and swimming. In these situations, you'll want to give your body a supply of fuel that will burn steadily over the course of your workout will help to keep you feeling stronger and more energized.
As I covered in Synchro Life Design #9, "fuel" for the body means either carbohydrates or fats. All other times, I'm a believer that fats are a superior fuel source because they are slow and consistent (among other reasons). For workouts (where energy is used rapidly), fats are a bit too slow to be an optimal fuel source.
We want a carbohydrate source that low-glycemic and that breaks down primarily into glucose, the body's preferred fuel source. All of the carbohydrates listed on the list of "Synchro Carb Sources" meet these requirements. A few hundred calories of carbohydrate from one of the sources on that list will provide a steady fuel source you can supplement by eating during your workout.
Eating your carbohydrate with some fats and a bit of protein will slow digestion and ensure that your "fuel" gets delivered to your muscles steadily. Before I do a 3-4 hour bike ride, I'll eat 300-400 calories in sweet potato with half an avocado, in addition to a serving of Synchro Genesis. This will vary for you based on workout intensity and body weight, but in general eating 1-200 calories of high-quality carbohydrate for every hour (past the first hour) of a workout is a good reference point.
During Your Workout
During your workout, priorities stay the same as pre-workout (fueling and hydration), but the methods we use fuel need to change a bit. Again, unless your workout is of moderate-to-high intensity and extends beyond an hour, your body should have adequate energy stored such that you won't need to eat anything during a workout.
If you do need to eat during a workout, the types of food you want to eat are different than what you would eat pre-workout. High-quality carbohydrates are still the priority, but because your body is now busy working out, ease of digestibility is now a lot more important.
Your body has pumped a lot of blood out to the skeletal muscles that are doing the work and there's less blood available to power digestion. As such, digestion slows way down and your body isn't able to process nearly as many calories compared to it's non-workout capacity. Eating 1-200 calories of carbohydrate per hour (depending on intensity) will keep your blood sugar (and energy) stable. Eating more than that risks upsetting your stomach, as your GI tract may not be able to process it.
My carbohydrate of choice during longer workouts is brown rice syrup. It's easy to eat and digests at a moderate speed, making it a more stable energy source than other, more sugary products. Macrobars are my personal favorite. They are minimally-processed and combine brown rice syrup and high-quality fats. Pretty much exactly what I'm looking for nutritionally during a longer workout.
After Your Workout
Post-workout is unquestionably the most critical period in which to support your body and ensure you get all of the gains you've earned in your workout. Your body is (hopefully) tired and is desperate to
1. Replace what it has lost/expended during the workout,
2. Clear out toxins
3. Begin the rebuilding/repair process.
There is a magic "window" of about 30-60 minutes post-workout when your body is doing the most repairing, rebuilding and replenishing. Getting your body the nutrition it needs early in this window is critical to making sure your body has all of the materials it needs in that process. Ideally, you want to eat you post workout nutrition as soon as possible after you finish your session.
(after strength training, when muscle breakdown is intense and delivering large amounts of protein to your muscles is a priority, it's good strategy to begin consuming your recovery nutrition during your workout. even fast-digesting proteins take 20-30 minutes to make it into your blood as useable amino acids, so this strategy ensures your body has the nutrients it needs to rebuild at the very beginning of this window)
Carbohydrate and protein are top priority for your body after a workout. Carbohydrates will replace glycogen stores and aid your body in delivering proteins to your muscles. The proteins are broken down into individual "free" amino acids, which then can serve as the substrate for your body in repairing muscle.
As you might expect, we want the same qualities from our carbohydrate sources as before (i.e. high on the Synchro scale). Proteins should be easily digestible and contain a full set of the amino acids your body will use in the repair process.
It's no coincidence that the Coconut Sugar and Pea and Hemp Protein in Synchro Genesis perfectly meet these requirements for carbohydrates and proteins, respectively. We selected these ingredients in part, because they are the absolute best available for supporting the body's needs when recovering from exertion.
There are several things to consider in determining how much carbohydrate and protein to consume after a workout. For any non-endurance sport workout, eating approximately equal portions of carbohydrates and proteins (i.e. a 1:1 ratio) will best support your body in the recovery process (this is the approximate ratio in Synchro Genesis).
How much total carbohydrate and protein to eat is determined in part by body size and in part by the intensity of the workout. Post-workout protein consumption should be anywhere from .4g/kg to 1g/kg of bodyweight. An activity like yoga will be at the lower end of that scale and heavy strength training towards the upper end. You'll have to find the right level to match your workout intensity.
If you are doing endurance-sport workouts (particularly lasting more than an hour), the needs of your body changes slightly. Replacing the glycogen stores you burned during your workout becomes more of a priority, and your body needs more carbohydrate to be able to effectively rebuild muscle. For these situations, research has shown that a carbohydrate-to-protein ratio of 4:1 is ideal for supporting your bodies needs. After a long ride, I'll eat about 1.5 servings of Synchro Genesis (24g protein, 21g non-fiber carb) with another ~75g carbohydrate from a combination of sweet potato and maple syrup.
Clearing out toxins is also a big priority for the body post-workout. There are a lot of oxidative byproducts of intense exertion, including lactic acid. Rehydrating properly after a workout helps the body to clear these toxins and prevent them from damaging cells and disrupting processes.
Another strategy for combating these toxins is to consume antioxidants that will neutralize the toxins before they can do damage. This is another area where Synchro Genesis stands out as perfect post-workout nutrition. Synchro is exceptionally high in antioxidants, particularly from the heirloom raw cacao we source.
As a bonus, raw cacao acts as a vasodilator, meaning that it opens up bloodflow throughout the body. In a recovery context, this vasodilation has tremendous value as it allows blood (and thus nutrients) to circulate deeper into the muscles, facilitating the recovery process.
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