By MJ and Gabrielle Neuhaus-Harsh
For many people, the most intimidating part of transitioning to a healthier lifestyle is figuring out the right foods and amount of food to eat. There are many factors to be considered in determining your daily energy needs. Daily activity level, type of exercises genetics, goals, and starting point all need to be taken into consideration when deciding how to eat. The caloric (energy) needs vary greatly from person to person, so make sure you work with a nutrition professional when building a plan to ensure you are eating appropriately to reach your goals. To get a general idea for how much energy you expend in a day, a good place to start is determining your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Once you find your BMR using the Harris-Benedict formula, you can multiply that by your active metabolic rate (AMR), which is an assigned number representing various activity levels, and that will give you an approximate energy expenditure for the day. See this formula below.
What to eat before a workout?
These recommendations are for those who have no dietary restrictions and who eat a balanced diet. It is best to eat carbohydrates and protein before your workout. If your workout is more steady-state cardio, you will also want fats to be included. Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for your body. They can be quickly broken down into glucose, and stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. Fats can also be broken down and stored, but this process takes longer, so it is a less efficient source of energy. It is recommended to eat 0.25 to 0.4 grams per pound for each hour prior to activity. You should consume this anywhere from 1-3 hours before your workout.
Our recommendations are different based on the type of exercise you are doing. The more frequently you exercise and the more rigorous your workout is, the more you need to consume to maintain stamina. Some great pre-workout carbohydrate-dense foods are: peanut butter and jelly, oatmeal, fruit, sweet potatoes, granola bar, a meal with rice, noodles, or other grain, etc.
What to eat after a workout?
The goal after a workout is to replenish what you have depleted and facilitate recovery. Protein and carbohydrates are important post-workout. In most exercise, your body primarily uses carbohydrates for energy, so your glycogen stores will be depleted by the end of your workout. Your body uses protein to repair damaged tissue, so it is important to give your body a hearty serving of protein soon after your workout. This will help limit soreness, and prevent muscle breakdown. A good general rule is a 3 to 1 ration of carbs to protein. Your body does not store protein like it does the other macronutrients, so you want to give your body protein continuously throughout the day too.
Some great post-workout protein and carbohydrate-dense foods are: protein shake with fruit, meal with a healthy grain + meat or fish, full fat greek yogurt + granola or fruit, eggs + English muffin with peanut butter, tuna salad + crackers, etc.
If you have more questions or want specific recommendations, we encourage you to book a consultation with our registered dietitian to make sure you are on the right track to reaching your goals in a healthy, enjoyable, and sustainable way! We offer both in-person and virtual nutrition counseling.