“Abs are Built in the Kitchen”
Think about the regulars you see in the gym. When was the last time you noticed one of those people making significant physical progress? They’re in the gym, so it can’t be for a lack of effort. Unfortunately, exercise alone isn’t the secret to transformative results. How you fuel your body is just as important as how you train it. But there are a lot of locker room experts out there with a lot of bad advice. So as always, we’re here to simplify things with corny jokes and bring you the recipe for success.
‘Eat Healthy Foods When You’re Hungry’
While this may not be the earth-shattering revelation you were expecting, it is something that’s often overlooked. When you perform resistance training (scientifically called ‘hitting the iron’), you are actively breaking down your muscle at the cellular level, and your body needs fuel to repair these tissues. Without adequate nutrition, your body will not be able to properly recover, and your hard work in the gym may go to waste.
As you start to get into working out, you’ll notice your appetite become larger than normal. This is your body telling you it needs fuel. Listen to your body and keep an eye on your progress. If you’re gaining more weight than you’d like, cut back on your meal size. If you’re not seeing results, then maybe it’s time to listen to grandma and go for that second helping.
There are a lot of want-to-be nutritionists out there who debate the importance of meal timing. But, the consensus is that your body is more receptive to nutrition immediately following a workout. This is why you may find yourself feeling extra hungry after going for a run or doing a heavy set of deadlifts. However, for most people, the timing of your post workout meal is not nearly as important as the food itself. You will not ruin your progress if you don’t get a big ol’ plate of chicken immediately after you put down the weight. Think of meal timing like premium gasoline; you’ll need it if you’re driving a Ferrari, but you probably won’t notice a difference in your Civic. If you’re a high-performance athlete, meal timing might just be the competitive edge you need to see incremental progress. But, if you’re a lifestyle lifter, fussing about the anabolic window will probably do more harm than good. When possible, aim to eat a balanced meal within 2 hours of your training, but don’t make it a big deal if that doesn’t work out.
What’s on your plate?
When you do finish a workout, what you put in your body is important. Your post-workout choice should look different than your other meals. You should include at least 20 grams of protein, some rapid-acting (high-glycemic) carbs, and keep the fat to a minimum. Protein kick-starts the cell repair process and is essential for supporting muscle growth. Most experts recommend consuming a protein shake immediately after a workout (we’d be remiss not to plug Suppy Whey here), and a slower digesting protein, like a chicken breast, within a few hours. Simple carbs, like a banana, are important to replenish your body’s glycogen stores, which get depleted during training.
While healthy fats, like avocados and nuts, are great to consume throughout the day, they are not ideal after a workout. Because healthy fats slow down digestion, consuming them post workout may actually delay your body’s ability to get the energy it needs.
If you’re looking for more ways to make your time outside of the gym more effective, check out our post on active recovery.