Optimize Workout Results with Nutrition
Updated: Mar 31
How to maximize your workout results with nutrition know-how!
As a Registered Dietitian and nutrition expert, I will share my tips to fine-tune your food intake to help you achieve your wellness goals. When it comes to nutrition for optimal performance choosing the right amount of foods in appropriate portion sizes and caloric content is important, but there is much more you can do. I will share my tips for selecting the best types of foods, including the ideal macronutrient percentages tailored to your personal fitness goals, making the right food pairings to achieve a healthful balanced diet, optimal meal and snack timing, tips support lean body mass, tone down fat mass, and help curve food cravings.
Tip #1 - Choose the Right Type of Food
Food serves as fuel for the body. Choose the best foods by selecting the least processed, most natural form that contains very few ingredients. Examples of the right food types are fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, eggs, unprocessed meats, milk, yogurt and natural cheeses. You can achieve a healthy and balanced diet by eating a variety of these foods.
Tip #2 - The Right Food Combinations
All foods fall into at least one of the 3 macronutrient categories. Macronutrients contain essential nutrients needed in large amounts by the body every day. These three macronutrient categories are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary and most efficient source of fuel. It’s also the macronutrient that breaks down directly into glucose also known as sugar. It’s because of this that carbohydrates get a bad reputation. What you need to understand about carbohydrates is that our bodies need them to function at their best. Foods like fruit, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, and dairy are all carbohydrates.
Protein is the building block of the body's tissue. Every day we break down our muscle fibers and we need an adequate amount of protein to rebuild and repair these muscle fibers. The more physically active you are the more protein your body needs throughout the day. This is especially true if your goal is to gain muscle mass. It is also needed to produce enzymes, hormones, and transport nutrients. Protein comes from many food sources like eggs, meat, fish, nuts, legumes, soy and dairy products.
Fats are essential in transporting fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E, and K, they are essential for building cell membranes and in the absence of carbohydrates, they provide energy. The healthiest fat sources come from nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado and fatty fish. Another benefit of fat is that it is the slowest digesting macronutrient which helps you to feel satisfied for a longer period of time.
It is best to always pair a carbohydrate food with either a protein or fat food source. This prevents insulin spikes by slowing the rate of glucose entering the bloodstream and also decreases food cravings. Carbohydrates also help maximize protein absorption by the muscle cells.
Tip #3 - The Right Amount
The right amount of food is determined by first calculating energy needs in the form of calories. This calculation is based on an individual's height, weight, age, gender, and activity level. Next macronutrient percentages are determined based on fitness goals. For example, to tone up and lose excess body fat a good macronutrient starting point would be 40% calories from carbohydrates, 30% calories from protein, and 30% calories from fat. This caloric amount is then distributed to macronutrient percentages and converted into grams of carbohydrate, protein, and fat as you read on the nutrition fact labels of foods. A Registered Dietitian can estimate these nutritional needs and create a personalized meal plan for you. Click Here to learn more about working with a Registered Dietitian.
Tip #4 - It's All About the Timing
Meal and snack timing matters. Start your day by eating within 1 hour of waking, plan to have a small meal or snack every 3-4 hours while awake, and stop eating 2-3 hours before going to bed.
What and when to eat before exercise?
There is a lot of conflicting information about this… some say don’t eat before your workout to maximize the fat burn, and others say that you should eat to prevent breaking down muscle mass. The answer depends on the type of exercise you are doing. Read more about aerobic and anaerobic exercises: https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/difference-between-aerobic-and-anaerobic
Are you doing aerobic or anaerobic exercise?
Aerobic workouts are also known as cardio, like a short light jog, brisk walk, or bike ride. This type of workout primarily burns fat to fuel you during exercise. If your goal is to burn fat then it is best not to eat before this type of exercise for maximum benefits. Your workout will be fueled by utilizing your fat stores. If you do have a snack before aerobic exercise your body will burn carbohydrates from your snack preventing your body from burning fat for energy.
Anaerobic exercises like strength training and HIIT workouts burn both carbs and fat. For optimal workout results, it is best to eat before the workout. Anaerobic or high-intensity workouts use both carbohydrates and fat as fuel. If you do not eat a snack before doing this type of workout your body will look for a source of carbohydrates. If you aren’t providing it from food then your body will resort to breaking down muscle to reach the body’s glycogen stores for fuel. It will do this instead of burning fat.
After workouts, it is optimal to refuel as soon as possible for maximum recovery regardless of the type of exercise. Aim to have a snack within 15-30 minutes of completing the workout. If you do HIIT or resistance training and don’t eat for a few hours you are missing out on the ability to rebuild and repair muscle fibers.
Optimize your workout results by properly fueling with nutrition. Remember, 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat are good starting points. A Registered Dietitian can calculate your energy needs and convert macronutrient percentages into personalized meals and snacks for you. Eat at least 3 meals daily spaced 3 to 4 hours apart adding in snacks as needed to meet this meal timing. Always refuel 15-30 minutes post-workout with a carbohydrate paired with a protein for the best recovery. Whether or not to have a pre-workout snack depends on the type of workout. Click Here if you are interested in one-on-one nutrition sessions with Dietitian Lindsey Fausnaugh.