You are what you eat, a maxim that is doubly important before and after a workout. Hitting every weight station at a fitness club only goes so far if you return home and chow down on pizza. While most gym rats will say that you need to eat lean meat to get enough protein, the reality is that there are plenty of plant-based meal options that will improve your routine, burning more fat and building more muscle. A good personal trainer can help identify diet choices that fit well with your exercise plan and your taste buds. Here are some tips about the best food to eat to prepare you for a workout.
One of the major questions that always seems to pop up around workouts and food is when to eat: before, during, or after. In terms of food after a meal, the answer is that a good plant-based protein meal can help speed up muscle recovery. Exercise of all sorts, including both cardio workout routines and weight training, puts a strain on muscle groups, forcing them to rebuild with each session. The food that you eat needs to provide the building blocks for this rebuilding, particularly protein. A snack or even a full meal after a workout will boost the efficiency of exercise, even if it leaves you feeling a bit sluggish.
In general, the harder you go in the gym, the quicker you need to eat, and the more nutrients you need to take in. A high intensity interval training session, for example, will quickly deplete your body's energy, leaving you in need of new fuel. By contrast, a lighter workout like a jog won't leave you as tired or as hungry. If your fitness goal is to build muscle, it is important to eat quickly afterwards, as your body may break down muscle mass in other areas to feed its growth. However, if you plan to have a full meal soon after a workout, a snack may not be necessary, and may lead to overeating.
All food can be broken down into a macro ratio of fats, carbohydrates, and protein. The protein content in a meal is key: a weight training routine may require 100 to 200 grams of protein per day, twice the daily allotment of a normal person. In general, plants provide more carbohydrates and less fat and protein than meat, but they do offer several benefits as well. An amino acid named leucine triggers the uptake of protein by muscles, meaning that recovery occurs faster: leucine can be found in beans, lentils, and peas.
Plant-based meals after a workout can be very diverse. Smoothies made from plant protein are quick and easy, while a larger meal like a lentil grain bowl can hit every macro you need. A tofu stirfry also provides excellent fats and proteins.