The ideal pre-workout snacks: Consume foods that are in the low- (LGI) to mid-range (MGI) on the glycemic index. These foods provide a steady, sustained rise in blood sugar. Study after study indicates that these foods as a pre-workout snack will not only give you lasting, sustained and quality energy throughout your workout but also increase the amount of fat you will burn in your workouts. Stay with foods that are easy to digest. Overall, avoid foods that are high in on the glycemic index (HGI) and rapidly spike blood sugar levels...then rapidly drop, leaving you feeling tired, unmotivated and craving more sugar.
My top choices would be: apples, cherries, bananas, and peaches. Enjoy one of these choices together with some almonds (8-12 is a serving) a tablespoon of almond or natural peanut butter and/or an egg white. This snack will provide an excellent balance of protein, energy-filled carbohydrate and essential fat. They're easy to digest and will result in a "turbo charge" overall for your workout!
Drink Up: Without a doubt, adequate hydration before, during and after exercise and throughout the day is vital for maximum energy levels. The ACSM suggests that you begin to hydrate several hours before physical activity. Individual fluid and electrolyte loss during exercise will vary by individual as some people sweat more than others. If you tend to sweat excessively, you must drink more during the course of your workout. Your goal is to lose no more than 2% of body weight during exercise--maximum. Then continue the re-hydration process immediately post-workout. Drinking water consistently throughout the course of each day will insure consistent and adequate hydrations levels. The general recommendation is 64 oz. (8 x 8oz. glasses) per day. If an exercise bout exceeds 90 minutes in length, then I suggest incorporating a carbohydrate/electrolyte replacement drink such as Gatorade during your workout.
When to eat: Before or after?: This depends on the intensity of your workout. In general, to maximize your energy and quality of your workouts, consume your snack approximately 45 minutes to one hour prior to your workout. If you are having an actual meal vs. a snack then wait 90 minutes to 2 hours. This ensures that the digestive process is complete. You want maximum blood supply pumped to your working muscles and not to the digestive process.
Your post-workout meal and or snack should be consumed no later than 30 minutes to an hour maximum after your workout. This is that "magic window" of time when your body requires and benefits the most in terms of muscle glycogen replenishment and muscle repair/remodeling. A combination of lean protein and again, an LGI or MGI snack or meal, will maximize glycogen replenishment and the process of muscle development and remodeling. Don't miss this window! This is the perfect time for your whey protein shake with nonfat milk and your favorite choice of berries all blended together.
Don't overdue the nutrition/snack bars. Real, whole food is always the best choice. Having said that, these bars can be a good choice for an emergency food as opposed to starving or making a super bad choice such as an overly refined food choice. They can be easily stored in a purse or briefcase. Stay with the bars on the market that are higher in protein and fiber and lower in sugar. (Go with bars that are under 4 g sugar per bar.)
Top 5 energy-boosting foods: Keep in mind that consistently solid food choices and balanced meals/snacks throughout the course of every single day will enhance your energy levels overall for all workouts. This is very important to remember. Smart, daily nutrition is the foundation for optimum energy levels, neurotransmitter metabolism, insulin sensitivity, spirit and your overall outlook on life. Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels throughout your day is vital to energy. So don't skip meals because you can't run on empty. Making optimum choices on the fuel that you consistently put in your tank will minimize the need for boosts of energy and keep you at your best throughout the course of the day. If you "feel" good, you will have energy.
Here are my top 5 overall energy foods:
1. Wild Alaskan salmon. This is loaded with heart healthy, fat-burning omega 3 fatty acids providing an excellent source of protein, balances blood sugar and increases insulin sensitivity. It lowers leptin, lowers LDL and raises HDL cholesterol, reduces inflammation and enhances integrity of your joints.
2. Flaxseeds. Flaxseeds also reduce inflammation, provides essential fatty acids, they're heart healthy and the fiber content helps to consistently stabilize blood sugar levels.
3. Apples. Apples also help to sustain blood sugar levels. They also provide a great source of readily available carbohydrates to sustain energy levels. The overall health benefits are many. "An apple a day......."
4. Green tea. Green tea is a proven source of one of the most potent anti-oxidants on Earth. It's thermogenic (encourages fat utilization for energy) and has proven anti-cancer benefits as well.
5. Chicken feet. This is one whose health benefits you may be unfamiliar with. As far as joint health goes, this is probably one of the most outstanding foods that you can eat. It is loaded with readily absorbable protein, collagen, calcium and cartilage to maintain, repair and build overall joint integrity. It's absolutely incredible for your skin as well. Kung Fu martial artists have used this for centuries to enhance overall joint integrity and strength. Could this be a fountain of youth? Healthy joints give you the mental and physical energy to be at your best for a lifetime.
Honorable Mention: Quinoa. This super grain is provides energy, heart healthy benefits and has powerful anti-oxidant properties. This is one of the most nutrient rich if not thee most nutrient rich grains on earth.
Stay away from all refined/processed carbohydrates. Foods that provide "empty" calories like cakes, cookies, candy, chips, sugary breakfast cereals and pastries should be eliminated all together. These foods excessively raise insulin causing inflammation and fat storage while providing little to no nutritional value. Excessively high sodium foods should be kept to a minimum as well. Choose foods high in potassium (lots of fresh fruits and vegetables) By increasing your potassium to sodium ratios.....you will increase your overall health profile energy levels.
If you are going to drink a caffeinated beverage then consume it approximately 20 minutes before your workout.. This will boost your energy and perhaps boost your performance as well. Green tea would be your best choice here. Many caffeinated beverages will act as a diuretic, so you want to keep them to a minimum. Excessive caffeine will raise stress hormones and also spike insulin levels which will block fat burning. Do not consume caffeine during the workout. You want your heart rate to increase due to the exercise, not the caffeine. Don't consume post workout either. You want to settle your body post-workout to enhance the recovery, repair and remodeling process that you deserve after a workout.
The most common traps to lack of energy are sleep deprivation and skipping meals. You cannot ask your body to be at maximum levels if you are not getting proper rest and or lacking proper nutrition as I've mentioned above. It's absolutely necessary to get proper rest to achieve peak energy. Adequate rest is vital in your quest for optimum energy.
My "Big 4" Lifestyle Choices that promote higher energy levels:
1. Consistent, smart exercise
2. Solid, daily nutrition
3. Proper rest (8-9 hours of quality rest per night)
4. Optimum stress management.
*It's these four aspects of life that not only determine our energy levels but ultimately our perspectives on life and the eyes that we look from daily. This defines energy. It's all about the "Big 4" and what you do or not to maximize these four aspects of life!