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Friday, 3 June 2016

What I Eat Around My Workouts


As well as a huge passion for healthy food I've grown to become passionate about exercise, woah...there's something I thought I'd never say! I was always that girl at school who'd 'forget' her P.E kit or suddenly feel unwell when it was time to play rounders or netball, but since leaving school I've found a real love for exercise and moving my body every day. This is mainly due to actually finding forms of exercise I enjoy but also feeling the amazing effects on my body (physically & mentally) and the benefits of regular exercise. My exercise routine isn't a strict one, I don't force myself to work out if I don't want to and I don't have set 'leg days' or 'cardio days', I try and keep it varied but I always do what I feel like my body needs or is craving and never push myself through exercise I hate. When I first starting working out I didn't have a clue about exercise nutrition and how important it is to eat the right things before and after a workout to fuel your body and help repair/build muscles, but I've since educated myself and now try and stick to certain foods before and after a workout that replenish my energy, aid in muscle recovery and keep me happy.



Before A Workout (High Intensity Exercise)
I tend to eat quite intuitively, I don't count calories or track macros but one thing that is important to me is being aware of my carb and protein intake on heavy workout days. Around 4 times a week I like to do high intensity interval training, better known as HIIT, which is very intense and puts the body through a lot. The whole time I'm doing HIIT training I can feel my body exerting so much energy and I know it's working hard to perform it's best, so it's no surprise that after I finish my workout I'm exhausted, dripping with sweat and my legs always feel like jelly. Occasionally I will do HIIT fasted first thing in the morning (apparently it's more effective at burning fat), this means I do the 30 minute workout before I eat anything but I'll always make sure I've had a nutritious meal the night before that included carbs. Carbohydrates are your body's preferred fuel source, so eating a meal high in carbs the night before a morning workout will help your body power through! Preferably I do like to eat before workouts and when I do I'll have a meal high in carbohydrates and protein but low in fat a couple of hours beforehand. The healthy carbohydrates should provide slow releasing energy to keep you feeling strong and energised throughout your workout, think oats or quinoa. The protein is important to fuel your muscles before a workout, specifically BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) and could prevent aching the next day...yipee! Adding protein to your pre-workout meal or snack also starts the protein synthesis and decreases the chance of muscle breakdown. Making sure your pre workout is low in fat is a good idea, this is because fats are harder to digest and the body will be using energy and precious oxygen to do the job, taking away the power you need in your muscles for a workout. It could also increase your risk of stomach-ache after exercise.
I personally like a big bowl of porridge with a little protein powder (pea protein) and/or hemp seeds (with fresh berries of course) for my pre-workout meal, which I'll consume 2 hours before a HIIT session to give it chance to digest properly. If I can't have a meal before my workout I'll have a high carb snack such as a banana half an hour before exercise to give me a boost.

Before A Workout (Yoga)
As well as more intense exercise days I practice yoga daily, sometimes this'll just be a 15 minute quick yoga sequence and other days I'll do a 50-90 minute yoga practise. I find yoga not only amazing for my mental wellbeing but it makes my body feel strong, increases flexibility & fluidity and relieves tension in my muscles. Even though you can most certainly break a sweat during yoga it isn't as full on as HIIT training so I don't try to fuel my body in the same way beforehand, instead I like to practise on an empty stomach or alternatively have a small snack or smoothie about an hour earlier. Yoga involves balancing poses, inversions and twists which all help to massage the digestive system and detox the body, this is brilliant but if your stomach is full of food it could lead to nausea or an irritated tummy!

After A Workout (High Intensity Exercise)
After a tough workout, whether that's HIIT or strength training, I know I've burned lots of calories, used up loads of energy and my body has worked damn hard so it's important to refuel with nutritious, wholesome foods. Your body's supply of blood sugar and glycogen will be low and needs replenishing so getting some carbohydrates into you is vital if you want to be full of energy, not feel sluggish and if you want your brain to function correctly too! I aim to eat at least 30 grams of carbs within half an hour post-workout, this is so my muscles are readily accepting of the carbs and they're used to help recovery. Protein is also very important post-workout, it's essential for tissue growth and repair as well as providing your body with the energy to maintain cell health and give you energy! I aim to include 15-20g of protein in my post-workout snack or meal to go alongside the carbohydrates, my go-to is a smoothie made with banana, oats, cacao powder, spinach, brown rice protein, pea protein, hemp seeds and almond milk, a bowl of quinoa with veggies and black beans, tofu scramble with toast or if I haven't had breakfast yet I'll have a big bowl of porridge with chia seeds, hemp seeds and fresh berries. I'll also make sure I drink at least a litre of water within the first hour after my workout.

After A Workout (Yoga)
As I said above yoga isn't high intensity and it isn't so important to get your carbs and protein in after a yoga session but when I practise yoga for 40+ minutes I will have been working quite hard and sometimes I can feel my blood sugar levels drop (this is sometimes down to the breathing techniques). I like to have a meal post-yoga if possible, otherwise I'll snack on a banana or homemade sweet treats like these Banoffee Cookies. It's all about listening to your own body!


I'm in no way a nutritionist, personal trainer, fitness expert or dietician. What works for me might not work for you, so do your own research and give different things a try to see what makes your body it's happiest and healthiest.


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