A well-chosen pre- and post-workout light bite helps you go the distance.
If you were to catch Piloxing teacher and personal fitness instructor Sandra Chung-Wood mid-dash to her next workout, you’d likely find in her bag boiled eggs and a sweet potato. “I have them in my bag every day believe it or not,” she says. These nutritious snacks are her pre- and post-workout standbys.
Because for anyone who works out regularly, every meal is the most important meal of the day. And planning what to eat before and after exercise is essential.
If you want to get the most from any exercise, prepping like the pros will help you go the distance. For Chung-Wood, who teaches high-intensity workouts that burn up to 1,200 calories over an hour session, maintaining good protein and carbs intake is a must. “You shouldn’t overeat before class,” she says, “because you’ll actually feel sluggish as you sweat.”
But don’t under eat either. Since carbs provide the energy that fuels effective exercise, set yourself up for a good workout with some rice crackers, toast or a granola bar up to three hours but within 30 minutes of your session, or you could risk feeling tired or weak. Chung-Wood, gears up with homemade almond milk, and slow energy release oatmeal sprinkled with chia and hemp seeds for protein.
In rigorous exercise like this, the body can burn through the fuel from an earlier snack and begin to use energy stored in the muscles. How you replenish afterwards is important because your body uses protein to rebuild the muscle tissue used. Even if you don’t feel like eating, you should within 45 to 60 minutes after a workout.
“Repair, rehydrate and refuel – those ‘3R’s’ are very important,” says Chung- Wood, who often chooses protein-loaded omelettes with wholegrain toast, and coconut water with fresh-pressed apple, beetroot and carrot juice spiked with healing ginger after her last class.
We hear a lot about protein, because it is so essential in repairing the body after strain. Current guidelines recommend that men require 56 grams of protein daily and for healthy women, 46 grams. But we need more than just protein to fully serve the body.
“By replacing adequate protein, carbohydrates, fluid and electrolytes, the body will recover better,” says Susan Chung, a Hong Kong-based PhD and registered dietician. Protein and carbs taken together can supercharge your body’s repair. To get more precise, Chung advises replenishing – another R for the list – your body with 20 grams of protein and 1–1.5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight after outdoor endurance training, preferably within 30 minutes of finishing. As a guide look to include 3:1 carbs to protein. Sweet potatoes with chicken or salmon, tuna with pasta or quinoa, and Greek yoghurt with oatmeal or fruit all combine good doses of both. A protein shake and banana, some hummus and pita bread or toast with nut butter are good quick-fix solutions, and lighter if it’s late and you are concerned a big meal will impact sleep.
Replacing fluids lost through sweat also helps the body repair. Weight loss seen immediately after a workout session is most often attributed to sweat and Chung recommends replacing 150 per cent worth of any weight loss with fluid and electrolytes. Do this by weighing yourself before your session and again afterwards. So, Chung says, if you were 50kg before exercise and 49kg after exercise, you should replenish with 1.5 litres of fluid and electrolytes – do this within two hours of finishing to maximise bodily repair.
Around January this year, Benjamin Tang, a fitness trainer, and Fitness Best Asia’s 2017 ‘Group Exercise Leader of the Year’ winner posted a favourite postworkout smoothie recipe. Frozen organic acai pulp, avocados, bananas, and organic dark chocolate go into his blender, with unprocessed honey, peanut butter and matcha powder making up a feel-good combination of superfoods.
Avocados and peanut butter offer good natural fats, and green tea provides antioxidants. Bananas give a protein injection and potassium, while acai, that oft-touted superfood, contains free radical fighting anthocyanins and plant sterols that are good for the heart, and happens to be a fruit Tang adores.
“I actually chanced upon acai when at the Filex fitness convention in Sydney seven years ago and have not looked back since. When Project Acai opened up in my hometown Singapore, I rejoiced. And when my neighbourhood organic grocers Mahota started selling organic acai pulp, I nearly cried with joy. I throw anything and everything into my blender with acai,” he says.
Tang also carries a ready supply of bananas, nuts and eggs, which contain all nine of the essential amino acids the body needs to create protein and aid tissue repair. He advises eating a snack between two hours to 30 minutes before according to how fast your body metabolises food.
You can vary what you eat by the exercise you do. Not all sports burn as many calories as high-impact circuit training and other endurance exercise, so you might not need to replenish as intensively. Hong Kongbased Nadine Bubner teaches up to 25 yoga classes a week, and relies on bananas and nuts after class when she wants to keep her energy levels even.
But in an average week she might spend two to three hours cycling, three hours running, two hours swimming and complete an hour’s strength training, so she varies her diet accordingly. After strength work, she opts for a nutritious combo of fish, vegetables and carbs like quinoa. After a long run, she is often not hungry, but to keep her blood sugar level will blitz up a fruit juice or a protein/recovery shake.
Project Acai’s Easy Acai Bowl
Benjamin Tang’s favourite go-to Project Acai gives us this straightforward snack bowl of goodness with low G.I, fairlytraded Sambozan acai and chia seeds that will keep you sustained until your next meal. It’s also dairy-free.
For the Acai blend:
2 Sambazon Acai Packs (2 x 100g), original or unsweetened 1 ripe banana (frozen preferred) 1/4 cup coconut water or non-dairy milk A handful of frozen blueberries 1 tbs chia seeds.
For toppings: fresh fruit granola.
1. Let the frozen banana and blueberries thaw for two to five minutes.
2. Blend frozen fruit and choice of liquid in a high-speed blender. Break two Sambazon Acai smoothie packs into a blender. Keep blending and stirring until you get a nice, thick consistency.*
3. Add chia seeds and continue until all ingredients are well blended together.
4. Top with fruit, granola, and other favourite toppings – go crazy here, the fun part about making your own bowls is decorating them!
*Add a little more liquid if the mix is not blending well.