Mastering Food and Fitness

One of the hardest parts of fitness is trying to figure out the food part of the equation. How many calories should I be eating on days I work out? What should I eat before I work out? What should I eat as a recovery snack/meal? Do I have to take a special drink with me to the gym?

These are all valid questions and I’ve wondered the same things. I didn’t want to undo all of my work in the gym by doing the wrong things. It’s taken me years to figure out what works for me. As always, talk to your doctor or see an RD for advice for yourself. But this post is about what worked for me after years of monkeying with different combinations.

A #fitblog chat on Twitter recently covered these topics and I wanted to go through them here.

Q1) What is your favorite pre-workout food?

This is something that alluded me for a very, very long time. I tried everything. Fruit, Greek yogurt, veggies and hummus, toast, English muffins, bagel thins with cream cheese, you name it I tried it. And very few things worked.

I discovered the hard way that bananas did not work–even with peanut butter. There was just too much sugar in the bananas and I’d crash quickly and be famished at the gym. There is nothing worse than trying to finish a workout while your stomach is growling.

What worked for me was eating either Greek yogurt or an English muffin. I don’t know why these specific things worked and other things did not, but I’ve stuck to it ever since. Eating between 100-150 calories about 45 minutes before I go to the gym works for me.

Q2) What’s your favorite recovery food (bonus for foods that are no cook or easy to prepare)?

My recovery snack after the gym varies. When I work out right after work I am usually famished by the time I’m done. I have a small snack of dried apricots to curb the gnawing hunger until I get home and have dinner. I was skeptical that something so small and simple would work but it does. Just eating 3-5 dried apricots gets me through that crazy frenzy!

Other times when I get home and I’m not eating a meal right away, my favorite post-workout snack is chocolate milk or a protein shake. Chocolate milk is simple and it works. I drink about half a glass of it and it gets me through until my next meal.

Q3) What do you eat and drink during long workouts or long runs? 

The only “long workouts” I do are either hiking or cycling. The hiking workouts are easier to prepare for. I pack snacks like protein bars, trail mix, dried fruit or we pack a lunch (sandwiches) to eat along the trail.

When it comes to cycling, proper fueling is crucial. There have been several not-so-great moments where I did not properly fuel or prepare for the bike ride and I “bonked” or crashed. It’s not a good feeling. I get irritable, my brain gets foggy, I am tired and have diminishing motivation to continue on. On long bike rides I do two things: I take GUs with me, or protein bars to eat on breaks. I also mix energy powder into the water bottles. That helps prevent the crash.

The last time this happened was when Michael and I were doing the Slow Carb Diet. We couldn’t take the GUs that we normally eat on bike rides because of the sugar and carbs and the raw almonds just did not do the trick. GUs may be pure sugar, but they work.

Q4) What healthy secret ingredient are you guilty of overusing?

This questions is difficult to answer. There are so many healthy things that help me in my journey to stay fit. We always have some things on hand: fresh fruit and veggies, rice, quinoa, canned beans, and buying proteins at Costco and freezing them so we always have them available.

QUESTION: How would you answer the above questions?

Hello Beautiful

It was the kind of rainy, gray, cold Saturday morning that made me look forward to the gym simply to get out of the house and still stay dry. I was also looking forward to changing up my workout routine like I talked about in this post. Yep–it was time to scale down the cardio and amp up the weights. Instead of doing an hour of cardio and 30 minutes of weights, I was going to swap it. It was the first experiment.

I was ready.  I was mentally prepared…sort of.  I was nervous, yes, about changing my routine, but I had to try. I skipped the elliptical and only ran on the treadmill. I did 1.65 miles, a tad more than what I’ve been doing for a few weeks. I’m looking forward to increasing my mileage next week.

After my run, I went to the weights and changed everything up. I did a mixture of the traditional weight machines, the plated weight machines for the upper body–back and chest, as well as the body weight exercises I have been doing. While I was doing the weight lifting my heart rate increased tremendously. That was cool to see. I was happy that I was able to spend so much time doing weights!

When I got home, I opened up one of these babies the second I walked in the door:

The company rep sent me a few samples recently and I was really looking forward to trying it as a recovery drink. The company claims it’s a good meal replacement drink (From their site: “Check out #Svelte in this month’s @NaturalSolution issue. Svelte is recommended as a great grab-n-go #mealreplacement. We agree!”). What I wanted it for was a post-workout snack that had a high protein count. 16 grams of protein was something I could get behind.

The drink I tried first was the chocolate. Mmmm chocolate. Most definitely. First, it tastes really, really good. It’s smooth and flavorful and did not taste like chemicals like Muscle Milk does to me. Second, I felt good after I drank it.

What I don’t like? The 260 calories in each bottle. That is really high for ME. That’s just a personal preference. I can see where the calorie count wouldn’t matter much to someone who was using this as a meal replacement but for a post-workout snack, that’s too high. I try to keep my snack calories around 100-150 calories tops.

So after my gym session I poured out half of the bottle and had that. It was very filling and got me through til lunch time. Did you catch my post on Sunday? Saturday after the gym I had the chocolate protein shake and it got me through for several hours until I was able to eat at my cousin’s house.

I really liked the flavors and am looking forward to trying the other flavors! They sent me chocolate, vanilla, spiced chai and cappuccino. The chai and vanilla are especially enticing to me.

Now for some facts: It’s made from organic soymilk, with organic complex carbohydrates for sustained energy. The Svelte website claims to be low-glycemic, but I don’t know a lot about that. Each bottle  has only 9 grams of sugar (excellent!). It’s also a good source of fiber,  is dairy-free and gluten-free.

This is the first protein shake product that I have really enjoyed in a long time. I didn’t feel like I was drinking chemicals and actually enjoyed it as a refreshing drink.

QUESTION: Have you tried the Svelte protein drinks? What did you think?