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Bite of the Week


Ever head to the gym revved and ready to go only to falter out of the gate, failing to hit your stride on the treadmill or your flow in yoga class? Or you finish a good sweat session only to collapse on the couch, depleted and ready for a nap? There’s a reason you may be suffering through these scenarios. You may not be “fueling” properly. Eating right on a daily basis is a recipe for success in and out of the gym, but getting the correct types of foods in your system pre- and post-workout is essential if you’re hoping to change your body, maintain workout gains or even improve performance.

“Exercise is a physiological stressor, it tears down old, less adapted muscle in order to build more functional muscle,” says Maria Pagano, a registered dietician. “This is called the remodeling method. But it only works if the body is provided with the correct nutrition.” For pre- and post-workout meals, that means the proper mix of carbs and protein.

Before and during your workout you need quick, accessible, and sustaining energy. “The body stores about 450-550 grams of glycogen from carbohydrates within the muscle and the liver for use during exercise and as you hit higher intensities, this glycogen becomes the main fuel utilized,” explains Pagano. “As it gets depleted, blood glucose also declines, ultimately resulting in exhaustion.” If your body doesn’t have the fuel it needs, you’ll be tapped out before you even get started.

A pre-workout meal with the right carb to protein ratio (think sandwich or wrap) can prevent that energy-lagging scenario. Shoot for a 2:1 ratio (30 grams of carbs to 15 grams of protein) unless you’re an endurance athlete, then up it to 3:1. You need to consume enough carbs to promote a substantial insulin release, which will shuttle those carbs and amino acids into your muscles. “With the correct ratio, production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a key energy source, is also optimized. ATP is crucial for nearly every action of our bodies down to the cellular level, from moving muscles to producing enzymes to carrying nutrients across cell membranes.” explains Pagano.

Once you’re done working out, eat for muscle repair and try to do it within 30 minutes. In a sense, you want to ‘rebuild’ what you just ‘tore down’ — with the goal of creating a new and improved body in the process. “Since muscle protein is degraded during exercise the addition of a relatively large amount of protein to your post-workout meal helps rebuild the structural aspects of the muscle — increasing protein synthesis and decreasing breakdown,” says Pagano. Carbs are essential now too for glycogen storage and replenishment. They’ll help keep you off that couch (and primed for your next workout). What to skip? Fat. It slows digestion and absorption of the carbs and protein, so it works against you post-workout. A good option: Protein-dense, carb-rich quinoa with veggies.

Summer is around the corner so if you really want to do some body remodeling, think of your muscles like clay. Your workout is just one of the tools you need to reshape them. Getting the fuel you need before and after you hit the gym is just as important.

Phillip “Philly” Gago

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