We all know that hard work in the gym is necessary for muscle gain and fat loss. But as equally important is hard work in the kitchen. Eating the right foods at the right time is essential for seeing results in the mirror, but also for maximizing your efforts in the gym.
When you are on an exercise schedule, there are some time windows in the day that are better to eat than others. Depending on when you exercise, you want to plan your meals around that workout time. The main trick here is to plan on eating no longer than 45 minutes after your workout. During this 45 minute window or so, your nutrient absorption rate is at its highest. And after this window, that rate starts to go down. Eating at the proper time allows you to get the right food into your system while your body is craving it. After a workout, your body uses up its nutrients to fuel your body. This process depletes your body of nutrients and is why it’s essential to restore those nutrients as quickly as you can. I’m not saying rush to scarf down some food immediately after a workout. It doesn’t necessary work that way. However, you want to make sure you have something to eat within 45 minutes or so.
If your body does not get the nutrients it needs to restore itself after a workout, then your body will stay depleted of the nutrients you just loss. Even if your goal is to lose weight, you need to feed your body something nutritious to offset the nutrient loss. Since your goal in this case is to lose weight, keep the calories and carbs on the lower side. But look for foods dense with nutrients like green leafy vegetables and high plant protein foods. On the flipside, if you are trying to gain weight, look for protein dense foods like eggs or meat. It’s always a better idea to go with high quality protein sources. Although it’s important to get protein in our bodies, it’s equally important to keep junk out of bodies like low grade ground beef and other low quality meats.
If your goal is just to maintain health, then you will find yourself right in the middle of the above spectrum. You will want some protein and some leafy green vegetables. The portions are up to you. Obviously if you want to gain weight you will want to eat a bit more. And if you want to lose weight then your will eat a bit less. But no matter what your fitness goals are, you should always refuel your body with at least a little food.
The other time windows that are important to keep in mind are the hours after waking up and the hours before falling asleep. Unless you exercise first thing in the morning, I am a big advocator for intermittent fasting. My first meal is usually after my noon workout. I skip breakfast practically every day. However, if you prefer to exercise in the morning, then some food after your workout may be necessary. It can be something small, but make sure it’s something that your body can use.
Eating right before bed is also not a great idea. You don’t want a lot of food in your stomach as you sleep. Since your body is resting, it won’t digest your food properly. This means low nutrient absorption and higher fat conversion. While you’re sleeping, your body doesn’t want to work to breakdown the foods still in your stomach. So, it takes shortcuts. Instead of digesting the food properly, it will take the easier approach and convert it to fat instead. Your body does this because it’s in sleep mode and it takes less energy to convert food to fat as opposed to digesting the food properly. For this reason, try to avoid meals or snacks an hour or two before bed time.
Exercise and lifting weights is important. But this is meaningless if you don’t have the right diet. Eating the right foods and eating them at the right time is crucial for seeing and feeling progress. Don’t put your hard work in the gym to waste. Maximize your gym efforts by eating the right foods at the right time.