If you decided it is time for the gym, you must be after one of the options, stay fit, lose weight, look good, burn fat and increase muscle mass, or just hang around and meet people. Whatever the need for the gym (except for the last one, then continue reading no more), you surely know that workout of any kind goes hand in hand with a proper diet. And this diet doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cut down to bread crumbs, it just means you have to find the proper diet for the result you expect to see in a couple of months.
Usually, the idea is to burn fat to some extent and create muscle mass, and in order to do this, you will have to cut somewhere and increase somewhere else. Meaning cut the carbs, increase proteins, and of course, free yourself from all the greasy junk food, no matter how tempting tasteful it is.
There are a couple of rules you should follow, and the rules usually apply at the right moment of time, meaning before practice, at practice, and after practice diet, and they all beautifully combine and give you all the nutrients to stay healthy and fit, and of course satisfy your gourmet needs.
A proper pre-practice diet
Eating food with medium carbs is good every time before practice, however, not too many carbs, 1 to 4 grams of carbs for every kilogram of body mass. It is important to eat at least one hour before the workout, because it takes a while before those carbs turn into a muscle fuel for physical activity. And of course, you will need to input enough fluids, water, tea, or yogurt.
If you workout on an empty stomach your body will start breaking down muscle glycogen to fuel your body for the exercise. This way you will lose muscle mass faster than fat mass, and this can lead to ketosis, keto-acid build up in your body that can do serious damage to your kidneys.
If you decide to start early with your practice, do have a quality breakfast. Some experts argue with this, and say you yourself should decide if you will have breakfast before workout, but because of the above stated, keep your belly filled before going to the gym. A good breakfast should include whole-grain cereals, a banana, yogurt, juice, and one cup of coffee at least an hour and a half before workout. If you are very hungry, if you’ve skipped dinner or similar, have a large breakfast, but wait for at least three hours so you won’t feel sluggish, while for a smaller portion you can exercise after an hour or so. Small snacks like smoothie, banana or protein bar you can do right before exercise. And of course, be properly hydrated!
Proper food during exercise
Eating during practice might seem impossible, and you might find it difficult to grab a sandwich, and yes, it sounds silly too, right? However, taking fluids during the workout is mandatory, water, sports drinks, juices, all are welcomed. If your workout is longer than one hour, you should also eat some carbs, from 30-60 grams of carbs for every hour of workout. An apple for example has 25 grams of carbohydrates, but you can also eat a protein bar, or granola, or dried fruits to get the same carbs.
Taking fluids is better than taking solids because the stomach can get upset if it is filled with solids during a workout. If your workout is less than 45 minutes long, water will do just fine!
After workout diet
After a workout you will feel hungry as a wolf, especially if your practice was longer than two hours. The most important thing to do is be disciplined, and try and not get stuffed with the first thing you find in the fridge.
After a workout it is important to consume 1 to 1.2 grams of carbs for every kilogram of your body weight, and from 20-25 grams of proteins, in order to replenish muscle glycogen reserves spent during exercise. A quality meal is important after each session in the gym, high-protein and carbohydrate-rich food, and of course with low fat. This includes yogurt, fruit, eggs, turkey with whole-grain and veggies, and some chocolate, preferably low-fat! Other meals you should include are:
– Meat – ground beef, venison, chicken breasts, pork tenderloin
– Dairy – Yogurt, cheese, and low-fat milk
– Grains – cereals, oatmeal, and rice ( a lot of it)
– Fruits and vegetables – all of them, just avoid fiber-rich vegetables (beans and legumes) prior workout, they can make you feel bloated and can produce gases
– Seeds and nuts – walnuts, almonds, chia and flaxseed, and you can snack on sunflower seeds anytime.
Also, fluids are very important, you have to make up for all loses of water. If your session is longer, it is best to use a sports drink after a workout, because they also contain electrolytes (salts and minerals), which you will lose during sweating.
What to definitively avoid
Some food is strictly forbidden if you want results, so you might have to make some lifestyle changes.
– Avoid deep-fried foods, the reasons are not just because you won’t see results, it is because these type of food is bad for your overall health!
– Alcohol – excess drinking of alcoholic beverages will affect muscle build and fat lose, in a bad way. One beer is allowed, and even good for you after practice… But only one, remember!
– Sugars – you need carbs, but some food contains them more than enough. Avoid candy, cookies, cake, and avoid using too much sugar as a sweeter (for coffee or tea).
What about supplements?
Supplements are a good way to speed up gaining muscle mass, and today the market is full of safe organic, natural products that can aid you in your cause. Protein is widely available, mostly as whey protein, however, there are vegan alternatives also.
If you are aiming at the “bodybuilder” look, then you can also try creatine for muscle growth, however, do consult your physician first, because if you are taking creatine and not spend it in the gym it can cause multiple problems to your health, both physical and mental. The use of anabolic steroids is highly not recommended, because of various health issues connected to the usage.