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What to Eat Before and After Exercise

Runninginpart_400Fitness trainer, nutritional consultant, and author Nell Stephenson shares what to eat to feel energized. From her book, Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat.

Keep in mind that the following is merely a set of guidelines to refer to, targeted toward a very broad audience. Factors including how intense your training session is, how long it is, how frequently you train, and your fitness level as well as experience at any particular activity are all going to affect what you should or should not put in your body to prepare.

You probably won’t be very surprised to read that coming from a quite basic approach, I’m not going to suggest you have one of your typical Paleo meals right before a workout. Steamed broccoli, rare fillet, and avocado minutes right before a track workout is simply not a great idea!

Endurance training? If you’re preparing for a longer session, add small amounts of yam to your meals for a day or two beforehand, in order to optimize muscle glycogen storage. A pre-endurance meal might be something like mashed yam, soft-boiled eggs, and coconut oil with some sea salt, or a homemade smoothie prepared with water, a banana, softboiled (or raw) eggs, and raw almond butter. Please note that some salt is indicated for Paleo athletes, as we sweat out quite a bit of our electrolytes.

If you only have a short session, you may want to play around with fasted training (working out on an empty stomach) as it’s helpful in teaching the body to adapt to becoming more efficient at fat metabolism. Ladies, do not misread this. Don’t plan on going in empty for a three-hour bike ride with that cute guy you met if you’ve never experimented with fasted training. To make it simple: think of this approach as something you might do for a quick thirty-minute run, first thing in the morning.

A similar meal to the pre-endurance examples might be consumed upon completing longer sessions, followed by a gradual progression back to your normal Paleo eating.

Strength training or CrossFitting? You don’t need the starch. This type of training may be best approached with only having eaten a protein snack about an hour before, or going in empty; then waiting again for roughly an hour post-workout to have another small protein snack.

In any scenario, test different approaches out and see what works best for you. You should feel energized and fully able to execute your workouts, not irritable and starving, nor filled to the brim!

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