Fuel your work­outs

Health & Fitness - - Contents - WORDS: Eve Boggen­poel

Find the per­fect diet for your favourite ac­tiv­i­ties.

Get­ting back into fit­ness af­ter the sum­mer can be a chal­lenge. Even with the best of in­ten­tions, an­nual hol­i­days, al fresco so­cial­is­ing and look­ing af­ter the kids dur­ing the school break can mean your train­ing sched­ule goes on the back burner, leav­ing you with re­duced fit­ness and look­ing a lit­tle less toned than you’d like!

If you’ve been strug­gling to meet your pre-sum­mer fit­ness goals or sim­ply aren’t see­ing the gains you’re look­ing for in your work­outs, it could be time to re­think your diet. Find­ing the right fu­elling strat­egy for your train­ing ses­sions can boost en­durance, build mus­cle and help you re­cover quicker. We spoke to three top sports nu­tri­tion­ists to help you dis­cover your per­fect work­out fuel, whether you’re do­ing HIIT, re­sis­tance or long runs.

SPIN­NING

When you per­form high-in­ten­sity en­durance ex­er­cise, your body breaks down glyco­gen (stored car­bo­hy­drate in the mus­cles) as well as fat to fuel your mus­cle cells. The greater the in­ten­sity, the higher the pro­por­tion of glyco­gen used. ‘Start­ing your work­out with full glyco­gen stores will al­low you to ex­er­cise hard for around 45-60 min­utes be­fore you need to refuel,’ says Anita Bean, reg­is­tered nu­tri­tion­ist and au­thor of The Com­plete Guide to Sports Nu­tri­tion (Blooms­bury Sport, £18.99). Given that a one-hour, fast-paced Spin class can burn up to 600 calo­ries, you need to make sure you’ve eaten suf­fi­cient car­bo­hy­drates in ad­vance.

FUEL UP FOR SPIN­NING

PRE-WORK­OUT: Bean ad­vises you eat a meal two to four hours be­fore your work­out, aim­ing for 100-150g of car­bo­hy­drates, with some pro­tein and a small amount of fat. If you have a lunchtime class, good break­fast op­tions in­clude por­ridge made with milk or eggs on toast, she says, while a lunch of pasta with fish and veg­eta­bles, or rice with chicken and broc­coli, is ideal fuel for a Spin ses­sion later in the day. ‘Of course, it’s not al­ways pos­si­ble to match your meals to your work­outs, so if you haven’t eaten for four or more hours, have a snack con­tain­ing around 25g car­bo­hy­drates, such as a large ba­nana, or a slice of peanut but­ter on toast 30-60 min­utes be­fore you work out.’

POST-WORK­OUT: Af­ter a high-in­ten­sity work­out, your glyco­gen stores will be de­pleted, so it’s im­por­tant to refuel. Again, the em­pha­sis is on car­bo­hy­drates, this time aim­ing for 1g per 1kg body­weight (for ex­am­ple, 60g carbs for a 60kg woman), and around 20g of pro­tein. Bean sug­gests 500ml milk, 200g strained Greek yo­ghurt with a ba­nana or a pro­tein bar such as a Clif Builders’ Bar (£19.22 for 12 x 68g, uk.iherb.com), which con­tains 20g pro­tein.

DO I NEED A SUP­PLE­MENT? Caf­feine is one of the most well-re­searched

sup­ple­ments, so it could be worth giv­ing it a try. ‘Caf­feine re­duces your per­cep­tion of ef­fort, so ex­er­cise feels eas­ier,’ says Bean. ‘It also in­creases en­durance, mean­ing you can keep go­ing at your cho­sen pace for longer. The op­ti­mal dose is 3mg per 1kg body weight, so if you weigh 60kg, you would take 180mg of caf­feine – the equiv­a­lent to a dou­ble ex­presso. It’s also avail­able in gels such as a Clif Shot En­ergy Gel (£23.80 for 18, uk.iherb.com). It takes about 45 min­utes for caf­feine to peak in your blood stream, so take it three-quar­ters of an hour be­fore your ses­sion. ‘If you’re do­ing a work­out that lasts longer than 60 min­utes, you might want to take caf­feine mid-work­out (in­stead of pre-work­out) to help you keep go­ing in the lat­ter stages,’ Bean sug­gests.

WEIGHT TRAIN­ING

Strength work helps you tone up, in­crease lean mus­cle and burn fat and the right fuel will make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence to your re­sults. ‘The aim of your weight-train­ing fu­elling strat­egy is to cre­ate a stronger neu­ro­log­i­cal path­way be­tween your brain and your mus­cle,’ ex­plains Re­nee McGre­gor, sports nu­tri­tion­ist to Par­a­lympians and au­thor of Train­ing

Food (Nour­ish, £10.99). ‘This will train the mus­cle to be­come stronger.’

There’s a mis­con­cep­tion that all you need is in­creased pro­tein to fuel your weight train­ing, but this isn’t true, says McGre­gor. ‘While your pro­tein needs are in­creased when you start weight train­ing, in­di­vid­u­als who train reg­u­larly don’t have in­creased pro­tein re­quire­ments.’ Rather, you need a com­bi­na­tion of suf­fi­cient en­ergy in the form of over­all calo­ries, pro­tein and train­ing for your mus­cles to de­velop. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, when work­ing out three times a week, if each meal con­sists of a fist-sized por­tion of whole­grain carbs, the pro­tein re­quire­ment for your weight (see below) plus salad or veg­eta­bles, you’ll be tak­ing in enough to get the gains you want.

FUEL UP FOR WEIGHT-TRAIN­ING

PRE-WORK­OUT: Your fo­cus should be on good-qual­ity pro­tein – eggs, milk, meat and fish will have the most ben­e­fi­cial branch chain amino acids for your work­out. If you’re a ve­gan, food com­bin­ing will give you the best chance of ob­tain­ing the op­ti­mum bal­ance of amino acids. Try oats and soya milk, rice and lentils or beans on toast. And don’t for­get tofu and quinoa. ‘They are as close as you’re go­ing to get to all the branch chain amino acids,’ says McGre­gor. ‘Ideally, eat good-qual­ity pro­tein through­out the day, but in the im­me­di­ate meal prior to train­ing, aim for 0.3-0.4g of pro­tein per kg of body­weight (18-24g for a 60kg woman),’ she says. You’ll still need en­ergy for lift­ing, so in­clude a fist-sized por­tion of car­bo­hy­drate in this meal, too. If your ses­sion is more than four hours later, McGre­gor ad­vises a pre-work­out snack such a glass of milk, match­book por­tion of cheese, or some Greek yo­ghurt and fruit.

POST-WORK­OUT: If you’re train­ing, say, three times a week, your re­cov­ery can sim­ply be your next meal. ‘There’s a mis­con­cep­tion that you need to guz­zle a pro­tein shake af­ter ev­ery work­out,’ says McGre­gor. ‘If you’ve had a tough ses­sion, in­clude whole­grain car­bo­hy­drates and pro­tein in your re­cov­ery meal to re­build glyco­gen stores and start to re­pair mus­cle. If your ses­sion is less in­tense, in­clude both carbs and pro­tein, ideally us­ing beans, pulses or root veg­eta­bles as your source of car­bo­hy­drate.’ If your next meal is three to four hours away, a post-work­out pro­tein snack is a good idea. Dairy is best for ab­sorp­tion and mus­cle re­pair, but soya or pea pro­tein are fine for ve­g­ans.

DO I NEED A SUP­PLE­MENT? Not re­ally, es­pe­cially when you’re eat­ing well in the week. If you’re new to weights, McGre­gor sug­gests a tart cherry sup­ple­ment for per­sis­tent mus­cle sore­ness (Cher­ryAc­tive Mont­morency Cherry Cap­sules, £10.99 for 30 caps; hol­lan­dand­bar­rett.com).

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