Good day my fellow health enthusiasts!
I’m really excited about today’s post. Do you all remember how a while ago I blogged a bit about how tired and lethargic and unmotivated I was feeling? While I’m still not feeling my best, I have come a long way. I am back to working out at least a few times a week which has really helped my energy levels and my appetite is back on track (for a while there I was eating for the sake of it and never felt super hungry where as now I eat only when I’m hungry). Both of these things were pretty important, but what was the key to helping me come this far?
Fuelling my workouts properly.
I can’t say enough how big of a difference this has made. Fuelling properly before my workout gave me the initial energy to lift myself out of my lethargy and move my butt a bit and fuelling properly after my workout has helped with my recovery meaning during my following workouts I could workout harder and with more energy! There was really a cyclical effect whereby I set myself up properly one day and had a great workout and it fed into the next meaning the next workout was even better!
So in the next couple of posts, I’m going to talk about how to go about this. I’m sure a lot of you know the basics but it’s always good to be reminded and be given more ideas! Today I’ll talk about fuelling up pre-workout and the next post will be about post-workout.
I always knew a lot of the principals I’m going to discuss, since proper fuelling of exercise and training was something we discussed a lot in my classes on exercise physiology in university. My problem was that I never really applied them. Why you might ask?
I exercised in the past primarily to lose weight/fat and thought the idea of eating before and after a workout (extra calories) would only hinder that goal
I thought that it wouldn’t have that huge an impact on my recreational exercise
What I have found in the last few weeks is that I could not have been more wrong on both fronts! It has been a huge factor in helping me get back into an exercise routine. My workouts are better and I’m seeing improvements much faster than before. And in regards to weight loss- fuelling properly ensures you can workout harder and more often, reduces risk of injury and helps you build lean muscle faster- all of which help with weight/fat loss! So there is really no reasons not to do it.
There are a few key factors to consider when choosing a pre-workout snack:
- The body’s first fuel choice during exercise is carbohydrates. More specifically, simple carbohydrates, that have already been broken down into their simple sugar components of glucose, fructose , etc. So remember to KISS! (Keep is Simple Stupid)
- Eating large amount of protein isn’t advisable as it requires more water to metabolize. This means more water will be taken from the body, reducing hydration. Protein burned for fuel during exercise will also create toxins which will create a stress response in the body. Not what you want during exercise!
- A ton of fiber is also not a great since it increase the time it takes to digest glucose. You want speedy digestion of this snack!
- You want your snack to be easily digestible. This ensures that less energy is diverted to digesting your food and that less blood goes to your stomach to help digest, leaving more blood to deliver oxygen to your working muscles.
- Your snack should be determined by the workout you’re going to do. I tend to do workout that are an hour or less or sometimes a class that’s 90 min. For exercise up to an hour you want pure carbohydrate and then for longer than an hour you can add in some protein
- Choose alkalizing foods. The body produces lactic acid during exercise so eating acid containing foods will reduce the body’s ability deal with it and this leads to muscle stiffness and pain. It also creates fatigue! Acidic foods will also create nutritional stress which will divert energy from the exercise recovery process. I talked about this here.
- Eat a complete, well balanced meal about 2 hours beforehand and an energizing snack about 30 minutes before.
All this being said though I want to mention an important fat for energy- medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). And what fabulous food is rich in these? Coconut oil! MCTs are burned right away for energy!
Sources: The Thrive Diet, Natural News, Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance
Keeping all this in mind, I set out to create a pre-workout snack that would cover all my bases as well as incorporate some additional ingredients that would further boost my workout! It was adapted from a recipe for Direct Energy Bites from The Thrive Diet, an awesome book for anyone looking to incorporate more raw/high performance foods into their diet.
Included in my bites are dates, coconut oil, cacao powder, matcha, goji berries, maca and spirulina. Here’s why these ingredients combined to make an awesome pre-workout snack (Scroll down for the recipe):
- Easily digestible energy- dates are high in glucose (a simple sugar) and coconut oil is rich in MCTs. Both of these can be used immediately as fuel without being broken down.
- Matcha: has caffeine therefore acts to give you a boost for your workout. Also, there is evidence that matcha can help restore hormonal balance after a workout. It helps restore adrenal gland balance which aids the body in recovering from stress (and exercise is a stress, albeit a good one!). It is also high in chlorophyll and antioxidants. This is good because you breakdown a lot of oxygen when working out which creates free radicals, or oxidants. Antioxidants will help neutralize these.
- Goji berries: contain polysaccharides called lycium barbarum which are very effective detoxifiers and reduce inflammation in the body.. The help remove lactic acid created by our muscles during exercise and help the body adapt to stress. . Goji berries also have sesquiterpenoids which stimulate production of Human Growth Hormone, which helps build muscle!
- Maca: provides energy and promotes quick regeneration of fatigues muscle tissue and the adrenal glands. Therefore it will help muscles recover and improve strength!
- Cacao powder: I mainly threw this in for flavour but it does have a small amount of caffeine which provides energy and is a powerful antioxidant!
- Spirulina: high in chlorophyll and antioxidants as well as iron which is needed for oxygen delivery to the muscles. Therefore, spirulina may help to increase endurance.
So I bet you all want this recipe now don’t you? Well here you go :)
Pre-Workout Superfood Energy Bites (Vegan, Gluten-free, Sugar-Free, Raw)
These are no culinary masterpieces but they provide great energy for a workout! The matcha and cacao give an interesting flavour, the dates and maca give a sweetness and the salt helps balance the flavours. Eat one before a workout for easily digestible fuel and an antioxidant boost!
Makes 8 bites. Inspired by Direct Energy Bites from The Thrive Diet.
* These ingredients are optional but I highly recommend them since they provide awesome benefits. If you don’t like the taste for green tea (matcha) maybe add extra cacao. If you don’t include any of the optional ingredients you will still have a bite that gives great energy so don’t worry if you are missing one or all of them!
- 5 large medjool dates, soaked
- 2 tbsp goji berries
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1 tbsp cacao powder
- 1 tsp matcha powder*
- 1/2-1 tsp maca powder*
- 1 tsp spirulina*
- 1 tsp water
- 1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or extract)
- pinch sea salt
Toss everything into a food processor and process until a mixture that will stick together forms. The dates should be completely broken down and the goji berries in small pieces.
Remove from food processor and form into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 min to firm up. Cut into 8 pieces. I liked these best eaten straight from the fridge, but it’s definitely not necessary!
These are some nutritionally “stacked” little bites ;)
I’m curious to hear from all of you:
- Do you eat proper pre- and post-workout snacks? If so, do you find they help?
- What are your go-to workout eats?
Check back soon for my post on post-workout nutrition and my delicious recovery smoothie :) Hope you all have a great Monday!