what to eat to kickstart your matabolismIt’s time to hit the gym. Whether you have plans to do cardio, strength training, or yoga, strategic eating pre- and post-workout can ensure that your metabolism fires up and stays running for hours after your workout is complete. Adding rocket fuel to your metabolism is the key to getting maximum benefits from your workouts. It can also help you reach peak performance in whatever sport or activity you pursue. Choose the foods you eat both before and after you workouts carefully to be the best athlete you can – and burn fat and build muscles for hours after your workout ends.
Depending on the time of day you exercise, it’s important to get adequate calories to fuel your body and get your system revving. If you are a morning person who squeezes in a run or hits the gym before work, it’s especially important to take the time to eat breakfast.
Working out on an empty stomach doesn’t mean that you’ll be burning extra fat; it just means that you won’t have the necessary energy to power through. Some studies show that working out on an empty stomach can even cause you to burn muscle which in turn decreases your metabolic performance.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: It’s critical to stay hydrated when you’re working out. This needs to start pre-workout, and continue throughout the workout as well. Hydration is crucial to performance, but also to maximum metabolic speed. Drink 2 – 3 cups of water in the two hours prior to your workout, half a cup every 20 minutes you actively work out, and as needed afterwards.
Choose a pre-workout meal that balances protein and carbs: Carbs will keep you energized during your workout and give you the energy you need to excel. It ensures that your muscles get the glycogen needed to adequately perform. Combine carbs with protein to ensure that your body doesn’t cannibalize muscle or protein in your organs like your liver and kidneys during the work out. Protein also helps regulate your blood sugar and has been shown to prolong the metabolic effects of exercise.
Three ideas for pre-workout snacks or small meals include: a bagel or toast with peanut butter, fresh fruit with yogurt, or a small serving of grilled chicken and a lettuce wrap. Think about foods that you enjoy and that are easy for you to digest, to avoid stomach issues mid-workout.
After your workout, your dietary needs shift from providing the necessary energy to aiding in recovery. The key word here, especially if you’re engaging in strength training or weight lifting of any kind, is protein.
Whether you’re an athlete or a weekend fitness warrior, think in terms of providing 10 – 20 grams of protein to your tired muscles after a workout to speed recovery. It will also optimize your metabolism’s performance in the hours after you’re done. Some easy ideas include to fit in protein include:
Hard boiled eggs
Protein drinks or shakes with whey protein or any other powdered source of protein
Nuts and beans, especially if you’re vegan or vegetarian
Energy bars when you’re on the go
Animal sources such as chicken, beef jerky, or fish
More is not better, so choose a source you enjoy and that falls within your target calorie requirements. In addition to consuming protein, make sure that you adequately rehydrate, as hydration remains one of the key factors in how your metabolism performs.
One final note on portion size: if the idea of eating before or after your workout doesn’t appeal to you, focus on easy to digest foods and just consume small portions. There’s no benefit to eating larger meals. The number of calories you need varies based on your size and the intensity of your workout, but when in doubt, it’s fine to opt for smaller portions. Now get out there, and fire up your metabolism for a killer workout!
-Ken Campbell is fitness guru that blogs about different fitness programs that produce results. His latest workout includes training with slide boards and metabolic drills.