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Ideal pre/post endurance meals…you already have September 22, 2011

Posted by Brandon in Technique Forum - the Training.
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3 comments

Everyday I go for a 3+ mile jog, but for the last nine months or so, I haven’t increased my endurance or energy levels.  After reading a few articles and talking with other runners, it became clear that I wasn’t properly eating before or after my runs.  Fortunately, the nutrients that I needed before and after a workout already exist in my kitchen.

Pre-Workout Options

Prior to an endurance workout, whether that’s running, swimming or biking, a main goal is to fill your liver with glycogen.  Glycogen, basically, fuels your nervous system.  You also want to make sure to get plenty of carbohydrates, which provides short term energy.  However, be careful to avoid proteins, fat and fiber, which takes up important space for more critical nutrients.

Certainly, there are numerous foods that contain glycogen and carbohydrates, but here is short list of some of the most prevalent in a home.  Interesting, Coca Cola can be ideal for boosting energy prior to a workout.  Caffeine and sugar provide short term fuel that triggers energy production, even if it is short lived.   Therefore, it’s best to have a Coke 30-60 minutes before a workout, and sip it slowly.  However, pretty much any other time of the day, you should avoid Coke.  It’s loaded with high fructose corn syrup, has zero electrolytes, and packs 140 empty calories per 12 once can.

Bagels are also a great source for pre-workout nutrients.  They’re rich in carbohydrates, bland and easily digestible, not to mention portable.  Be careful of cream cheese and butter, which are fast burning and will crash your energy levels once you get moving.  Instead, swap in peanut butter or banana slices, where you’ll get more carbs.  Banana’s on their own are also excellent pre-workout meals, as they’re loaded with carbs and low in protein and fat.

The more obvious pre-workout meals are energy bars, which are designed to be easily digestible and provide a boost of carbohydrates.   More importantly however, energy bars help stabilize glycogen levels for longer workouts.   To maximize this high-carb/low-fat option, cut up the bar into pieces to eat sporadically during the workout.  However, energy bars may at times be too heavy for some stomachs, and are a poor daily snack with high calories and sugar.

Post-Workout Options

Following a workout, it’s important not only to replenish carbohydrates and glycogen, but also repair muscles and replace missing nutrients.  This is best done by loading up on protein and fiber.  One of the best, and most surprising options, is chocolate milk.  Chocolate milk is best immediately after a workout, when muscles are most prepared to absorb nutrients.  The chocolate adds anti-oxidants and carbohydrates, nearly twice as much as regular milk, keeping in mind that low-fat milk is ideal.  In combination with the milk, it replenishes glycogen stores and provides protein to repair muscles. Along with reloading stores of calcium, vitamin D, potassium, magnesium and B vitamins, the anti-oxidants clear out free radicals, which has links to aging.  But make sure to have it within 20 minutes after you exercise.

Another surprising post-workout meals that provides many essential nutrients is pizza.  With lots of veggies and some lean meat, pizza can deliver all the macro nutrients you need, from carbohydrates to fat to protein.  The best option would be whole wheat with olive oil, basil, garlic, chicken and some mozzarella.  Be careful not to go too heavy on the cheese and meats, and have it within an hour of exercising to maximize the benefits.

Bananas are also ideal after a workout because of the potassium levels they provide, which is lost in sweat and helps repair muscles.  Other general tips for post-workout foods include those with electrolytes (sports drinks), salt, oxidants (berries) and protein that provide critical amino-acids (meats).  Be wary of portion sizes however, as nothing more than a palm-sized amount for any type of food is the recommended size.

Overall, it’s a good idea to focus on carbohydrates before a workout, and proteins afterwards.  As far as timing, eat no less than 30 minutes before endurance exercise, but no more than 30 minutes afterwards, depending on your tolerance.

Did I miss any other common foods that are great for pre or post workouts?  Suggest some below!

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