What and When To Eat Around Workouts
And Why I Love a Sculpt Studio Workout
The question of what to eat and when to eat around workouts is one that comes up all the time.
And for good reason!
Food is what fuels us through our days and our workouts! We want to be sure we’re feeling our best by giving our bodies what they need before and after a workout.
While it would be nice to have a hard-and-fast answer to this question, the truth is, I don’t like rules, especially when it comes to food.
Too many of us fall into the food rules trap, thinking that we “have to” eat a certain way, at a certain time to get certain “results.” Here’s my preferred approach for how to eat well and feel your best: listen to your body always. It’s communicating with you if you just listen.
Unfortunately, many of us have grown out of touch with our bodies since we follow what X magazine, blog, or news article is telling us to do instead of tuning inward and really listening to what our bodies are asking for. Getting back in touch is a practice, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But if we’re able to start tuning in and really paying attention to how our bodies, minds, and souls feel when we are eating certain foods at various times, then we can truly know what works best for each of us. And the key there is “what works for each of us,” since what works well for me, might not work at all for you, and vice versa. We are all so different and will thrive on different foods, ways of eating, and timing of meals.
With all that said, there are some general best practices I can offer as far as what foods can make most of us feel our best before and after workouts, but first I want to share why I love the Sculpt Studio workouts.
Why I Love Sculpt Studio’s Workouts
I used to spend all of my time working out focusing on cardio. I loved running, got into triathlon and therefore other endurance sports, and in doing so found myself good at moving in a forward motion, but was not strong -- in fact, I was running my body into the ground and making it weak in so many ways.
After moving away from running and turning more toward strength-focused workouts, my body feels stronger, more capable, and more “me” than it ever has before.
I love the workout at Sculpt Studio because it’s dynamic, and it works muscles that I don’t normally target at the gym when I’m just lifting weights. Don’t get me wrong, I love feeling strong in the gym lifting weights, but the stabilizing movements with the help of the Megaformer work my muscles in ways that I can’t do on my own in the gym.
I also love that the workout is low-to-no impact! No pounding on the knees to get an intense, body-shaking workout here!
Having variety in my workouts is really important to me, because it helps keep me injury-free, and ensures that all of my muscles are getting challenged, which keeps me strong, and capable of handling physical (and mental!) challenges as they come my way in my everyday life. Because of this, I love being able to turn to workouts like Sculpt Studio’s Classic Sculpt and Pilates classes to mix up my movement and get some variety.
Okay, now, on to the nutrition! Here are some general guidelines for when to eat and what to look for when constructing your snacks and meals before and after your workouts.
Early Morning Workouts
Before: If you’re an early morning workout person, I understand that you might not have a huge appetite very early in the morning, or might not have time to fit in a meal with enough time to digest beforehand. If that’s the case, I would recommend exploring how you feel eating a spoonful or two of nut butter or coconut butter right before your workout, or if you’re a first-thing-in-the-morning coffee person, try a tablespoon of coconut oil or ghee in your coffee before you head to the gym or studio.
Why: The fats in nuts and oils like coconut oil are an excellent source of long-burning fuel your body can readily use for energy to get you through your workout if you don’t have time to eat a full meal beforehand.
After: After a morning workout, I always recommend getting plenty of protein from real-food sources like eggs, grass-fed ground beef, bacon, grass-fed/organic full-fat yogurt, etc. It’s also a good idea to ensure you’re getting good-quality sources of carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, regular potatoes (russet, red skinned, etc.), plantains, sprouted quinoa, sprouted buckwheat, squash, as well as less-starchy veggies like greens (spinach, kale, chard), and whatever other veggies you enjoy! Fruits like berries, bananas, figs, and apples, can also be good sources of carbohydrates after a workout.
Why: Protein from good-quality sources contain amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins that make up our muscles, so it’s important to give our bodies the necessary building blocks to rebuild muscle that was taxed during the workout and to build new muscle!
Carbohydrates are important for replenishing glycogen stores that were used up during our workouts. Always make sure you have plenty of fat when consuming carbohydrates to ensure that your energy is long-lasting (as opposed to feeling that spike and inevitable dip in energy). An example of what this would look like would be: roasted sweet potatoes with full-fat cream cheese or almond butter, plantains cooked in coconut oil, apple with cashew butter, etc.
Before: If you’re working out around noon, I recommend having a small snack with plenty of fat & protein and some carbohydrates about 1.5 hours before your workout to ensure your body has enough time to digest before you start moving around.
Why: The fat and protein will provide sustained energy that the body can use to power you through your workout, and the carbohydrates will give your body a quick source of energy to use.
After: Make sure to get a solid meal after your mid-day workout, and look for a balanced plate. Think: proteins like chicken, grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon or sardines, etc. Also make sure you’re giving your body plenty of vitamins and minerals in the form of veggies! Minimize processed foods after workouts to ensure your body is rebuilding with good-quality materials. Processed foods include anything that has been removed from its original state (lots of packaged/boxed foods are processed). Real food are things like good-quality meats and fish, fresh veggies and fruits, and properly prepared (soaked/sprouted/fermented) nuts, seeds, and grains.
Why: Imagine if we built a house or building with low-quality materials -- it would fall apart! Our bodies are no different). That’s why sticking to real food is always best no matter what, but especially when we challenge our bodies in a way that depletes it and requires rebuilding.
Before: As with the midday workout, I recommend having a fat- and protein-focused snack with a little bit of carbohydrates about 1.5 hours before your workout. Some berries with coconut milk and an Epic (meat) bar would be a healthful choice, as would a few spoonfuls of nut butter and/or a full-fat yogurt.
Why: Fat and protein give us lots of energy to get us through the workout feeling focused and strong, and you want to be sure you’re giving your body plenty of time to digest that snack before you start moving in your workout.
After: A dinner with lots of veggies (starchy. cruciferous, and leafy), good-quality meats like pastured-chicken and eggs, grass-fed beef, pastured pork, etc., wild-caught fish like salmon, sardines, and herring, and seeds/grains like white jasmine rice with olive oil and sea salt, sweet potato with butter, quinoa with coconut oil, etc. are all great, body-fueling options!
And let’s not forget the importance of hydration! We should always be hydrating and fueling our bodies well, regardless of when or even IF we workout. Water should be sipped slowly throughout the day since our cells cannot really store water, so we need to make sure we’re giving our bodies a constant drip of hydration throughout the day. A good goal to aim for when it comes to hydration (as a general guideline which can vary depending on how much you’re sweating, the temperature, your activity levels, etc.), is half your body weight in ounces of water each day. So, if you’re 150 pounds, you would aim for 75 oz of water each day as a general guideline.
In order to maintain hydration, it’s important to make sure we’re getting adequate electrolytes (minerals). Adding a pinch or two of sea salt into your water bottle is a great trick, and making sure you’re getting adequate vitamins and minerals through food throughout the day (from good-quality animal meats, fish, veggies, fruits, and grains/seeds) is also very important! Not to mention, we do get some amount of water through our food, so getting lots of veggies is a great way to hydrate and get those important vitamins and minerals.
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