One of the very first things many people do when they decide to lose weight is either join a gym or just get into a workout routine. Then reality and the pain hits! If you have never worked out or haven’t in a long time, any type of working out will cause your muscles to yell, “What are you doing?!” Or maybe that’s just me. The pain of the weakness leaving my body (kidding!) is enough to make me not want to continue. What I try to do is focus on the why, the cardiovascular benefits, the bone density benefits, the benefits of brain boosts, sleep help, and overall health improvements. I also eat foods that are supposed to help decrease the lactic acid that is building up in my muscles.
Choosing to eat before or after a work-out is a personal decision and contingent on when you work out. If you work out in the mornings, you might not be as inclined to eat beforehand. If you are worried about decreased energy, try eating an apple, banana, or a handful of nuts. It’s a light snack, but it can give you an added boost of energy. If you are working out in the evenings or just have to have something substantial before a workout, I always recommend a smoothie. You get your good carbs, fats, and proteins in one place! My recommendation is to drink it a little over one hour before your workout. I personally eat after I work out because it is what my body responds best to. It is always important to listen to what your body is telling you. (But ignore it if it’s telling you that exercise isn’t for you!)
The picture that I chose to pair with this article is what I eat after my workout. It is two pasture-raised eggs fried in real butter (Kerrygold) and topped with organic diced bell peppers, mushrooms, organic spinach, and sprouts. I add a little bit of Real Salt, pepper, and two tablespoons of nutritional yeast. It has all the elements I was talking about in the smoothie: good carbs, fats, and protein. I want to point out that I am using the word “good” when I am talking about carbs, fats, and proteins for a reason. What do I mean when I say “good”? I mean quality. Quality matters when it comes to food.
Quality carbohydrates are organic, whole, and unprocessed. You want complex carbs, brown rice, dark leafy greens, carrots, red and yellow peppers, winter squashes, yams, cruciferous veggies, berries, and citrus to name a few. The more colorful foods you eat, the more nutrients you are including in aiding your recovery and helping with the inflammation that comes with working out. Good carbs help aid in recovery; they help increase muscle growth by preserving glycogen in the muscle and liver, they get energy into the cells, and prevent protein breakdown.
Quality protein can mean several things depending on whether or not you eat meat. If you are a meat eater, it means grass-fed/pasture-raised meats. If you are a vegetarian, it just means you should choose organic produce. Protein is what helps your body recover faster, helps with performance, and helps prevent muscle breakdown. Generally, you should only consume 15 to 20 grams of protein about one hour after a workout to help control muscle breakdown. So don’t go crazy! Be careful if you are using protein powders to get your protein. They can do more harm than good with all the chemicals that can be added. I usually recommend Garden of Life or Purely Inspired protein powders, but any cold-pressed whey formula is a good option.
Quality fats are slow digesting fats, such as avocado, coconut oil, seeds (pumpkin, flax, sesame), nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews), cold water ocean caught fish, pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed cow butter, and cold pressed olive oil. They enhance thermogenesis, helping with weight loss, as well as enhancing GI tract health and increasing your energy. Quality fats can potentially lower your cholesterol and help protect your cardiovascular system. That seems counterintuitive, but the science is starting to support it!
The last dietary thing that might prove to help is staying hydrated—making sure you are drinking at least half your body weight of water in ounces for starters. Depending on how much you are working out, you may need to increase your intake. I highly recommend just water or water infused with fruit and avoiding sports drinks. Sports drinks may make things worse if you are sensitive to the added chemicals in the drinks. Be smart with your hydration and just stick to water, tea, or broths.
I’m not saying that nutrition is going to prevent soreness. Walking across a room may still hurt, but it can help ease the pain. There are some non-dietary things you can look into as well that can also help your muscles recover. Go for a walk—yes it’ll hurt, but moving will get that lactic acid moving and help some of the soreness dissipate. Taking an Epsom salt bath (1-2 cups for 20 minutes max) can help soothe those aching muscles by adding in much needed magnesium. Magnesium helps your muscles relax, helping you speed up recovery by helping you to sleep better. It also helps with your electrolyte balance and reduces fatigue. A foam roller can be your best friend when your muscles are screaming at you. It is well worth purchasing one and using it! I promise you it will hurt while you are using it, but you will feel so much better when you are done!!
If you have any questions about anything involving workouts or workout recovery, all of us at Physician’s Weight Control & Wellness are here to help you—whether it is to just answer quick questions or help you come up with a specific recovery plan! Get in touch with us today.