22 February 2007

When to eat what for a workout

You’re serious about your workout and about fitting into size 32 jeans for the rest of your life.


You are what you eat. You are also when you eat it. Grammatically incorrect, but true. The sooner you harness that knowledge the better for your mind and body.

You’re serious about your workout and about fitting into size 32 jeans for the rest of your life. But you don’t hang out at the section of the pharmacy where guys with cut-off sweatshirts and flat-top haircuts stand around discussing the merits of huge tins of stuff called Mass Gain.

Why? Because you have a life, mainly. And you don’t work out simply to get the biggest biceps south of the Sahara, but also to stay toned.

One problem, though. One day you work out feeling like you’re made of steel; the next you feel a little weak.

Also, you have occasional lapses in your generally good eating habits. The once-a-week Danish tends to become the most-days-of-the-week Danish – we’re talking here about those pastries, not Erica from Stockholm you met in an online chat room.

So here’s a guide to when you should eat, and what. Not only is it grammatically correct, it’s also useful.

10 p.m. We’ll be obtuse here and start the night before. Drain a large, but tasteful tankard of water before retiring. If you’ve worked out, had a drink, been exposed to tobacco smoke or had salty food, this will help your body rehydrate during the night. Sure, you’ll have to get up to pee, but depending on who’s with you in bed it might be worth being waking up at intervals during the night.

6.30am. Rub your eyes and head for the loo. Stare blearily at your urine, not because you’re narcissistic, but because its colour is a good indicator of how hydrated you are. The yellower it is, the more water you need to drink. Now wash your hands.

Find the kitchen and find the filter jug and top up the tankard. Down it. You need to knock back at least 10 glasses today, so get a head start.

It’s early, but the earlier you eat breakfast the better, because it takes a while for your body to experience the benefits of what you’ve eaten. I’ll also kickstart your metabolism.

Your body will benefit most from complex carbohydrates, which will keep your energy up. Bread is good and so are breakfast cereals. Try some muesli and sprinkle on some wheat germ, which is good for ridding your body of the free radicals you’ll be exposed to in the exhaust fumes as you drive to work.

Sprinkle on some oat bran too, which reduces cholesterol and keeps your bowels running more smoothly than the Swiss railway service.

7.45 a.m. Time to hit the road. Grab a couple of apples for the drive to work. You need to chew through at least five pieces of fruit today. Luckily there’s a variety, all tasty and abundant, and none of it fattening.

9.30 a.m. You’ve had a cup of filter coffee and done some actual work. Drift over to the office fridge and take out a small carton of low-fat yoghurt. It provides just enough of the protein you’ll be needing for your workout later on. Generally, the large men who ingest 600 grams of dead cow in one sitting consign most of it to their waistlines. Stick with the yoghurt.

10.30 a.m. Top up your water jug and grab a banana. Water serves many purposes in the body, but one of its more important functions is to help you use protein more effectively, which helps build muscle. The banana? It’s rich in potassium, which helps your body control its fluid levels.

11.45am. Grab your second or third - and last - cup of coffee. There’s evidence that coffee helps reduce fatigue during moderate exercise, so having some before heading for the gym could give you the boost you need. How’s that water jug doing? Top it up. Walking briskly to and from the loo will clear your head and make you more productive.

12.15 p.m. Surrounded by the clank of weight machines, the distant thump of the aerobics class music and the whirr of long, glistening limbs, you push your body to its limit, with your water bottle beside you. After 40 minutes of exercise you should have drunk at least a litre of water.

1.40 p.m. Feeling pumped and enervated, you’re freshly showered and clean. Before returning to your desk, spend a few minutes outside in the sun. This enables your body to produce vitamin D, which makes your bones strong. Along with weight-bearing exercise and an adequate calcium intake, you’ll be strong enough to heft a half-dozen grandchildren one day. Keep it up.

If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t eat for 40 minutes after working out. This forces your body to draw upon its fat reserves for sustenance. Meanwhile, have some more water.

2 p.m. Grab a delicious, fresh wholewheat sandwich with crunchy greens and some cottage cheese. The protein will help build your muscles and the carbohydrates will get your energy levels back up.

3.30 p.m. Have some more water or perhaps a hot drink such as tea, as well as a cracker with some cheese or cottage cheese. This will help top up the protein your muscles need. You won’t need much.

7 p.m. Ah, supper. Use your imagination here, as you’re likely to have more time than during the rest of the day. Baked potatoes, stir-fried veggies, pasta or pasta salads, or huge, leafy green salads with wholegrain bread all fit the bill.

You know the rules. Avoid the saturated fats, so fries are out. But a little olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing on that salad won’t hurt. Sprinkle in some sunflower seeds, which contain a little fat, but have other good things.

9.30pm. Some time in front of the TV with a snack could undo all the good you’ve done, especially if the snack consists of crisps. Keep a supply of dried fruit handy. If you’re really feeling peckish, nuke a potato in the microwave. Watch the fat content of whatever you put on it.

10.30pm. Good night. Remember the water bottle. - (William Smook, Health24)



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