Nutrition is powerful. Depending on timing, amounts of food and combinations of macronutrients, nutrition can either amplify your efforts in the gym or detract from them. Who wouldn’t want to make the most of their food choices to achieve health and fitness goals?
While there’s no doubt that your client’s overall healthy eating plan is essential to the exciting results they expect to see, pre- and post- workout nutrition can further boost those efforts. Adequate hydration, a meal of carbohydrates with some protein and fat in the hours before and immediately after a workout are all common recommendations for sustained energy and increased efforts. These exact recommendations may vary to some extent and should be personalized for each client with the help of a registered dietitian. However, that’s not all clients need to know to properly fuel and refuel for training sessions.
For clients just learning about nutrition’s role in an effective training program, it’s important to outline both the foods to eat and the foods to skip. This total picture helps clients now and sets them up for long-term success. Deliver the results your clients demand. While still staying within your scope of practice, you can help clients avoid choices like these after a workout:
Post-workout, one of your client’s biggest goals should be fueling for the next workout. This means replacing stores of glycogen that can be used for energy in training sessions to come. This is where high-quality carbohydrates are a must. Whole-grain breads, crackers and pasta as well as fruits are rich in carbohydrates that are converted by the body into glycogen and stored in the muscles for future energy. Urge clients to avoid simple carbohydrates such as high-sugar foods, such as high-sugar protein bars, refined bread products and candy, which can cause blood sugar to spike and crash with few to no nutritional benefits.
After a strenuous workout, your clients may be tempted to indulge in a higher-calorie meal. This may especially be the case if they’ve heard of the “afterburn effect” or post-exercise oxygen consumption, in which the body may continue to burn calories after exercise depending on duration, intensity and a variety of other factors. Not only can excess calorie consumption after a workout erase these possible gains in the short term, it can also set up your clients for unhealthy diet and exercise habits in the future.
As with high-calorie meals, many clients often see post-workout as an optimal time to splurge on a higher-fat meal. What they may not realize is the effect that fat has on carbohydrate digestion and, therefore, the replenishment of the all-important glycogen stores. Research indicates that higher amounts of fat actually slow digestion and the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose and glycogen. Less glycogen being replaced post-workout means there will be less available for the next training session.
This is the only time you may hear health professionals and dietitians suggest skipping vegetables. It’s not because they aren’t low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods that have been shown to help with everything from cancer prevention to a healthy heart and toned body. It is because they lack the basic macro nutritional necessities of a post-workout meal: moderate-to-high carbs with some fat and protein. Urge clients to wait a few hours after a workout to go crazy with the vegetables to load up on hunger-curbing fiber and nutrients. Immediately post-workout, clients should stick to something that will effectively fuel energy stores.
Help clients harness the power of nutrition before workouts, after workouts and throughout their day with an effective meal plan. Leave foods like the ones just mentioned for other times of the day or the occasional splurge.