It’s a myth that effective training begins and ends with your workouts. In reality it’s not just about the exercises but a delicate combination of many varying elements, including how we fuel our bodies, or rather our diet leading to the workout.

Fueling is often misunderstood to be eating carbs and then working out. But the challenge is more complex than that and has to take into account many factors such as our body’s natural deficiencies, familial upbringing and existing habits.

But it doesn’t have to be hard. Often it’s about applying common sense principles to your fuelling. These suggestions will guide you through these decisions and help you maximize your workout’s efficiency.

Get the timing right
Along with knowing what to eat, also find out when to eat. Each person has a unique metabolic rate that makes it challenging to apply one general time gap for all. In addition, it’s essential to create a routine for your fuelling, just like your workouts. Knowing you have to eat a certain thing at a certain time can be a massive burden off your back and mind. Just relax and eat at the right times. “Smaller meals and snacking should become part of your everyday routine. Backloading calories at the end of the day or going long periods without eating will negatively affect your workouts,” says Alan Culpepper.

Give up the fake food
Writing for Ironman, Becky Simon says, “Nutrient-dense foods are naturally packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. On the contrary, empty calories from processed foods offer little nutritional value and minimal benefit.” So she suggests trying real food. “Real food is simple. Real food is minimally processed and is as close to how it’s grown in nature as possible.” Real food is nothing but a total lack of supplements and artificial energy drinks and replacing them with fruits, vegetables, real fresh meats, grains and pulses, which are a great source of energy and fibre. Sometimes even raw food can be beneficial, when you are strapped for time. Something like a quick seafood ceviche or fruit salads with yogurt is preferable to chomping down on protein bars.

Stick to real food for your fuelling
Stick to real food for your fuelling

Stick to your schedule
Bad habits can be the biggest obstacle in the way in your fueling routine. Skimping on fuel on days when you are late for your workout can actually have a major negative impact on any weight loss goals. This is what’s called bonking and it could end your run in an untimely manner or make you feel nauseous when exerting yourself, and dehydrated faster than you would otherwise. In turn, you will end up binge eating after your workout to make up for this feeling with sugary and heavy foods. Better to have a small nutritious snack and be late for your fitness date rather than skip the bite altogether. So make fuelling an essential part of your routine like warmups. Follow up your workout with a light meal or snack. A meal that includes complex carbohydrates, some protein and healthy fats is ideal.

Think about recovery
You need fuel not just to workout, but also to recover. That’s where all the good work your body has done will not be undone. Three-time Ironman champion Mirinda Carfrae believes “recovery nutrition is critical” and often is the motivation required to finish a run. “I know that eating immediately after training is what I need to help get me to that finish line,” she added. In ideal circumstances you would be having a light meal within the first half hour of working out. It is advised that you take something like a chocolate milk, yogurt, smoothie, protein shake, which will not only refuel you but also hydrate you adequately. Recovery meals are crucial not just for the current day, but also for your next workout.

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