A Whole Foods Approach To Sports Nutrition: What Should I Eat Before a Workout?

Do your New Year’s Resolutions include kicking up your workout routine a notch? If they do, that is great! But equally as important as the workout is what you are eating. Proper nutrition is essential to getting the results you want in the gym or out on the playing field. With personal trainers selling supplements, CrossFitters pushing Paleo, and a new diet popping up every month, its hard to decipher what is actually healthy and what is just hype. Here are four expert tips to help you get the most out of a pre-workout meal.

  1. Don’t shun carbohydrates. I know we are constantly being told carbs make us fat. But it’s just not true. Eating more calories than we burn makes us fat. Carbs provide our body with a quick source of energy which is what we need while working out. Carbohydrates break down into glucose, which enters our muscle cells and gives us fuel to workout at maximum capacity. Good sources of carbs to eat before a workout are fruit, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, potatoes (white or sweet), and yogurt.
  2. Keep it real. Focus on whole, minimally processed foods as much as possible. For example, eat an apple rather than an apple flavored Nutri-Grain bar. Although I think bars serve their purpose, they shouldn’t be your number one go to. If you are “keeping it real” that also means tossing protein powders, “pre-workout shakes” and anything that doesn’t actually resemble food. If you can buy it at GNC, but not the farmers market, that is a good indicator that it is not a real food. Aside from shakes and powders having no nutritional advantage over eating a well balanced meal, there are risks associated with supplements such as kidney and liver failure. Although rare, it does happen and it is not worth the risk.
  3. Hydrate hydrate hydrate! It’s best to be well hydrated before beginning a workout. Try to drink 16 ounces of fluids a few hours prior to exercising and then 1 cup of water in the half hour before. If you are exercising for one hour or less plain water provides adequate hydration. If sweating heavily or exercising for prolonged periods of time a sports drink with carbohydrates and electrolytes is a better choice. Hydration needs are different for every individual and vary based on the type of workout you are doing. One of the best indicators of hydration is urine color; as my sports nutrition professor always said, your pee should be “light lemonade.” If it’s darker, you should start increasing your fluid intake before and during exercise.
  4. Timing matters. What and how much you should eat before working out varies based on how much time you have. If you are eating dinner at 5 pm and working out at 7 pm, it is likely that you don’t need any additional food. If you are working out straight after work at 5 pm and your last meal was at 12 noon, it is a good idea to have a pre-workout snack. Personally, if I’m working out after work I’m usually ravenous. So I eat an apple or granola bar on the way to the gym. I’m generally still hungry after that apple, but once I start working out I forget about my hunger and enjoy the sweat. This snack should mainly focus on carbs, but can have a bit of protein and healthy fats thrown in as well. If your workout is primarily strength based you will want to include more protein to aid with muscle recovery. If you do more cardio (like an hour long run) your snack should be mainly easy to digest carbs. Here are some good examples.

Pre-workout snack for cardio (<1 hour before workout): 1 banana or apple, 1 Tbsp nut butter, 1 cup of water

Pre-workout snack for strength training (<1 hour before workout): 1 cup Greek Yogurt, handful of berries or sliced fruit, 10 almonds

Pre-workout meal for cardio (2-3 hours before working out): 4 ounces baked chicken or fish, 1 cup brown rice, green salad with dressing, small dinner roll, 16 ounces water

Pre-workout meal for strength (2-3 hours before working out): 6 ounces baked chicken or fish, 1/2 cup brown rice, 1 cup roasted veggies in olive oil, 8 ounces water or milk

I hope this guide helps with your sports nutrition needs. Stay tuned for the next blog to learn what to eat after your workout.



Waist Trainers: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

To the girl at the gym, wearing that horribly uncomfortable neoprene band around your stomach. WHY???
Not sure if it’s just me, or the fact that I’m in Central America, but I have been noticing an abundance of women at the gym wearing a “waist trainer” while working out. If you are not familiar with a waist trainer or “trimmer,” it is a band that can be worn around your midsection which supposedly melts fat and tricks your waist into thinking you are Barbie. They are ridiculous.
First, the good. Oopsy, this part was just a joke. There is nothing good about waist trainers, they are an abomination. In my opinion they take women back to the times of foot binding and rib bruising from wearing tight corsets. If you want to wear a waist trainer just for a special day or night, kind of like spanx, that’s one thing, but to wear one 24/7 in hopes of a smaller waist, bad idea folks!
The bad. The bad part is they do not work and they are (I imagine?) uncomfortable. Personally I can not wear tight jeans without getting a stomachache. Why anyone wants to have something tight around their waist for fun is beyond me. if you are thinking, “I am not doing this for fun, I’m doing this for results” think again. A waist trainer may cause you to sweat more while working out or doing daily tasks, but in the end, excessive sweating does not result in greater weight loss. Excessive sweating results in 1) consuming more fluids or 2) dehydration (very bad).

The ugly. Not only are waist trainers ineffective, they can be downright harmful.If worn too tightly they can cause acid reflux, shallow breathing, and potentially cause rib damage. Also, back acne. No one wants backne.

Now that we know what doesn’t work, what does work? High intensity interval training, lifting weights, plank variations, eating healthy. All of those things actually work to make you stronger and slimmer, but none of them change your physical bone structure.

Tell me, have you ever worn a waist trainer? What was your experience? Are there any other weight loss or body shaping gadgets/supplements you would like me to blog about?

*Please note, if you were advised by your physician to wear a “waist trainer” or other device postpartum that is a different situation and may be advisable.

Y ahora, algunas fotos de NicaraguaNicaragua12039195_464374037077251_4438631148371924810_n Nicaragua

Sometimes, holding your ice coffee in your shirt is the only way you can survive the heat without air conditioning. This also allows you to type with two hands and drink at the same time.
Sometimes, holding your ice coffee in your shirt is the only way you can survive the heat without air conditioning. This also allows you to type with two hands and drink at the same time.

Dietitian Approved Eats at Starbucks

Some days there is just no time to pack a healthy lunch. On those days, I often turn to my friend, Starbucks. It’s located everywhere, you can get in and out fairly quick, and it smells great. Although they do offer many high calorie drinks and pastries, it is possible to get a delicious and healthy meal that will leave you feeling energized for the rest of your day. Here are a few of my favorites!

Best Lunch Item: Hearty Veggie and Brown Rice Salad Bowl. I’m slightly obsessed with this salad. Not only is it great tasting and filling; nutritionally, it’s a thing of beauty. Kale, orange and red veggies, whole grains, I really couldn’t ask for more. Even with the dressing it only has 430 calories. It also offers over 100% of your daily value of vitamin A and vitamin C. Just from one meal! I highly recommend this salad. If for some reason you are not within a 5 mile radius of a Starbucks you can find a copycat recipe here.

My favorite kale and brown rice salad. Image from blogs.starbucks.com
My favorite kale and brown rice salad. Image from blogs.starbucks.com

Runner Up: Protein Bistro Box. The bistro box is also a good choice. Despite it’s name, it’s not that high in protein. It has 13 grams of protein, which is not even a fourth of the recommended 65 grams per day. But overall, I like it. The box includes grapes, apple slices, 1 egg, small nut butter packet, white cheddar and 1 multigrain bread. The total calories come in at 380, which leaves you a little room for a drink.

Best Drink: Iced Coffee or Tea. It may not be as exciting as a frappucino, but it’s a heck of a lot better for you. The closer your coffee is to real coffee, and the less it resembles a milk shake, the better it is for you! If you want to add a little extra excitement to your coffee or tea get it with nonfat milk or soy. It’s best unsweetened. If you prefer sweetened ask for just 1 or 2 pumps of sweetener. Each pump of sweetener or teaspoon of sugar adds twenty calories.

Runner Up: Skinny Vanilla or Hazelnut Latte. A tall skinny latte only has 100 calories, which makes it a decent choice calorie wise. The main calorie savings come from using non-fat milk and an artificially sweetened syrup instead of the classic sugar sweetened syrup. I’m okay with artificial sweeteners in small amounts, but if you prefer to avoid them then don’t order “the skinny.”

Best Treat: Petite Vanilla Bean Scone. I love that Starbucks actually offers a small pastry, so many times I want a little treat, but I’m not about to order a 400 calorie muffin. The little sign in the display counter encourages you to order 3 petite scones, but you don’t have to. Just go for one and enjoy your 120 calorie treat.

Delicious vanilla bean scone. Image from bakingbites.com
Delicious vanilla bean scone. Image from starbucks.com

Runner Up: Cake Pop. Again, I chose this as a good treat because it is a small serving which has built in calorie control. BUT, keep in mind that cake pops are very dense so the calories are not as low as one might think. My favorite kind (salted caramel cake pop) is still 180 calories. Sigh. A cake pop is essentially made by taking a fluffy piece of cake and then smooshing it down to form a dense ball with frosting. Is this healthy? No. Is it delicious? Yes. In comparison to the other pastries the cake pop still wins because it’s less than half of the calories of the other “treat foods.”

What are your favorite healthy Starbucks eats?

P.S. Did you notice any changes? What do you think?