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Posted January 7, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Food for fitness: Eat protein and carbs before, after workout for energy

Kelly Nebiolini
Rich Cooley/Daily Kelly Nebiolini, of Delaplane, drinks protein shakes as part of her post-workout nutrition at Anytime Fitness at Founders Landing in Strasburg. An effective protein shake will include simple carbohydrates, like bananas. Rich Cooley/Daily

Kelly Nebiolini
Eating an apple or other fruit as part of a pre-workout snack will offer the body some fuel from carbohydrates. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Josette Keelor — Daily Staff Writer

You just began your new workout routine to fulfill your New Year’s resolution, but that doesn’t mean it is OK to pile the food on your plate.

“A lot of people have in their mind that they can eat whatever they want if they’re working out,” says Barbara Sweeney, a fitness instructor and certified nutritionist with the Centre 4 Fitness in Winchester. These assumptions are not correct, she says, but it is also important to fuel the body before and after working out.

Protein and good carbohydrates are what local fitness professionals say are best.

Pre-workout

“We always tell them to eat carbs, but the right carbs, before a workout,” says Sweeney.

“Anything good, a teaspoon, tablespoon of peanut butter on whole grain bread,” is an option, she says.

A person’s blood sugar will drop without food, she says.

“Nothing heavy before they work out,” she says is something people need to remember. Just a small serving of protein with carbs will provide enough fuel for muscles.

Hard-boiled eggs are a great source of protein and complex carbohydrates, says Larry Farrell, owner of Anytime Fitness in Strasburg. He recommends eating as many as three hard-boiled eggs together, though he says removing the yolk from two of them will considerably reduce the number of calories, while keeping the protein.

Sweeney warns to take it easy on the protein bars, because they tend to have a lot of sugar.

If it tastes like a candy bar, it pretty much is a candy bar, she says. Too much sugar is not healthy, she explains, and will also increase the number of calories in a food.

Kashi GoLean is one she recommends for people on the go or who are attached to the idea of snacking on a protein bar.

Choosing the right bar is important, says Sara Kuykendall, a registered and licensed dietitian with Valley Health Wellness Services, part of Valley Health, Wellness and Fitness Center in Winchester.

“It’s not really a candy bar; it’s a little bit better than a candy bar,” she says.

Real food is always going to be a better option, she says.

A snack that includes 7 to 9 grams of protein (10 percent of your daily protein value), 24 to 26 grams of carbohydrates, fewer than 6 grams of fat and 180 to 200 calories is your best bet, she says. A good rule of thumb is 3 grams of fat for every 100 calories.

“We don’t need a whole lot of food before our workout,” Kuykendall says. Following a reasonable breakfast and lunch, only a small snack before an afternoon workout will be sufficient, she says. “A snack of a couple hundred calories ought to be enough.”

If your workout is in the morning, she recommends trying a small bowl of cereal with skim milk or a 90 calorie yogurt with a tablespoon of walnuts or dried fruit. A scrambled egg with whole grain toast and jam is another choice she suggests.

For an afternoon workout she offers peanut butter with five or six whole grain crackers or a slice of whole wheat bread, or half a turkey sandwich.

“Make sure they drink plenty of fluids while they’re working out,” Sweeney says, adding that plain water is the best choice.

“The vitamin waters are OK, but they have a lot of sugar in them, too. You just have to read their labels,” she says.

Post-workout

Kuykendall recommends eating within a couple hours of working out. If dinner will be soon after a work out, a snack will not be needed.

It’s especially necessary to consume protein after working out, says Farrell. Replenishing the body after the breakdown of protein and amino acids is important, he says.

Something like a high-quality protein shake would be a good choice, he says, explaining that, post workout, many of the fitness club’s members will choose a drink with protein and simple carbohydrates.

“Whey protein with a banana is a great post-workout meal,” he says.

Smoothies are another idea, but it should be a high quality smoothie, he says.

“If it’s a smoothie without any protein in it, it’s not going to be as beneficial for you,” he says.

Fruit smoothies and juices also contain a lot of calories, which will affect the results of a workout.

“It all really depends on your caloric needs,” he says. Consuming more calories than you burn will not help you lose weight.

An appropriate serving of fruit or a juice will work, too, he says.

“We don’t want to guzzle down a big bottle of juice,” says Kuykendall. Four to 6 ounces of juice would be enough, she says, without overloading the body with too many calories. It is a problem if people are drinking 16 to 20 ounces of juice, she says, if they are trying to lose weight. Even better would be a piece of fruit, she says.

“We just try to tell people to fuel their body throughout the day,” Sweeney says. Eating six small meals a day, about three hours apart, will not only keep you from feeling too hungry, but will also pretty much eliminate the need for fueling specifically for a workout, she says.

She recommends being consistent about working out.

“I say you’re making a lifestyle change — just to be healthy,” she says.

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com


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