You can ask any expert on bodybuilding or personal training, and they'll all tell you the same thing: Diet matters more to a workout than anything else. You can exercise all you want, but if you don't eat right, you won't get the results you're looking for.
If you're just starting out, you'll want to get a grip on some of the basics. Here's some of the best foods you can eat before and after your workouts to make them as effective as possible.
Why do you see so many people drinking shakes before a workout? It's for a few reasons. First of all, your body absorbs liquid faster than solid food. Lots of people rush to fit their workout in, so they drink the shake right before, to get as many nutrients into their bodies as they can.
Secondly, smoothies can make a large amount of food a lot easier to take down than it would be to eat them conventionally. This keeps your stomach satisfied and gives you lots of energy.
Try this recipe from Tracy Anderson. Blend together:
If you do heavy lifting in your workouts, this smoothie will jump-start your metabolism and give your body the energy it needs to tear it up in the gym.
Yogurt helps for a variety of reasons, and the Greek variety capitalizes on each of these. First off, it has probiotics, which help your body digest all the food you're putting into it. It's especially helpful when you're eating foods you're not used to.
Secondly, Greek yogurt has two to three times the amount of protein as regular yogurt, and your muscles need protein immediately after you work out. Protein also helps you feel fuller for a longer period of time. You can mix plain Greek yogurt with a larger variety of foods without a clashing taste than regular yogurt.
Add some of your favorite fruits to your yogurt cup to add some variety and extra flavor to your snack. Just remember that citrus fruits can damage the enamel on your teeth. Make sure to keep up regular appointments with a dentist like Dr. James Otten, DDS, who offers a variety of services to keep your chompers in tip-top shape.
One of the most classic pre-workout meals, oatmeal gives you the complex carbohydrates you need to last for a long time in the gym.
Oatmeal bores a lot of people, so feel free to add something to make it much more interesting. Berries, bananas, nuts and milk can all enhance the flavor without any intake of refined sugars. You can easily digest this meal, but it's also surprisingly low-calorie considering how full it makes you feel. 100 calories of oatmeal goes a long way.
You can make a lot of alterations to this meal if you wish, as long as you maintain the same basic nutrition. When you exercise, carbs are actually your friend, as long as you eat good carbs. Carbs and meat also make vegetables more fun to eat without having to cover them in high-sodium sauces or dressings.
When choosing bread, make sure you get something 100% whole wheat. Don't go for multi-grain breads or anything that isn't purely made from whole wheat, as it won't help you build back that muscle and burn fat nearly as well. Put 3 ounces of roasted turkey, or any equally lean protein source, with a little cheese for more protein and some necessary fat. Pile on your favorite vegetables for a great post-workout snack.
Anything tastes good dipped in peanut butter, and peanut butter carries a decent amount of protein. Bananas work great for mixing with peanut butter because they offer good carbs that help give you more energy for your workout. They also have potassium, an essential mineral for exercise and a key component in muscle-building.
Try to eat at least one hour before your workout, maybe even closer than that. You can find natural peanut butter that come high in protein to mix with the yellow fruit. If you plan on lifting weights, you'd probably benefit from adding nuts into the mix for extra protein and healthy fats. What's your favorite pre and post-workout meal? Please feel free to share your favorite fat-busting snacks and meals with us in the comments below.