There’s no denying a great exercise session starts and ends with the right fuel, but with so much conflicting advice out there, how to know where to start? From how much protein gym bunnies really need to whether coconut water is all it’s hyped up to be, we caught up with the nutrition experts at Heat & Eat Lean – a gourmet home delivery service making meal prep easy – to find out more...
MYTH: You need protein within 30 minute of exercising
FACT: Not necessarily. While it’s essential to get in some form of protein as soon as you can after working out (protein will ‘feed’ your muscles and aid recovery), it’s a myth that you need it immediately. As long as you eat a balanced meal or snack featuring some form of protein within a couple of hours after working out, you’ll still reap the benefits.
MYTH: Post-workout meals should focus on carbs and protein
FACT: Yes and no. Physiologically speaking, after a workout, muscles are damaged, depleted and biochemically primed for nutrient uptake so ingesting a roughly 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein with 20-30g coming from protein can help to replenish glycogen stores and aid muscle recovery. However, don’t overlook the importance of healthy fats, which will help to move nutrients around the body. It may not be a food source, but never forget how important sleep is too – a good night’s sleep is better than any carb or protein when it comes to recovery.
MYTH: It’s bad to rely on protein powders
FACT: This is true. While a protein shake or smoothie is absolutely fine as a meal substitute from time to time, or when on the go, they shouldn’t replace proper food. Many protein powders are devoid of fibre (which will keep you feeling full) as well as other nutrients and vitamins. Also make sure your protein powder is a high-quality one – try Awesome Supplements’ Whey Protein, which blends well and is super smooth.
MYTH: A banana is the best pre-workout snack
FACT: A banana is packed with simple carbohydrates, which will break down quickly for a boost of energy before a workout. However, studies have suggested fat may trump carbs when it comes to pre-workout nutrition. Tempted? Try swapping pre-gym starchy carbs for a pure fat snack such as plain coconut yoghurt or a bulletproof coffee to see how your body responds. The science goes that working out with a bit of fat in your stomach will mean you’re tapping into your fat stores for energy.
MYTH: The more protein, the better
FACT: No. Depending on your goals, research shows you need between 1.2 - 2.2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight on a daily basis for healthy muscles. As a rough measure, women who are moderately active (working out around three times a week) need around 75g of protein. However, you’d be surprised how quickly this adds up as amino acids – the building blocks of protein – are found in almost every plant, grain and animal food. If you’re getting enough calories, it’s almost impossible to be protein deficient.
MYTH: You always need a snack before hitting the gym
FACT: There isn’t a magic answer – it all comes down to how you feel. For some people, if their diet is well-balanced and you’ve eaten enough in the day leading up to your workout, you may not necessarily need a snack pre-workout. However, if you struggle to workout on an empty stomach, just be sure to avoid anything too heavy as when you’re exercising, blood is diverted away from the digestive system to working muscles, which can cause cramps.
MYTH: Coconut water hydrates better than plain water
TRUTH: Yes and no. Coconut water is packed with potassium, which can help to boost hydration, but the jury’s out whether it’s any better for you than water. When it comes to hydration, you’re better off sticking to water – remember many sports drinks contain empty calories and are devoid of nutrition. Aim for around 0.033 of a litre per kg of body weight every day – if you’re around 65kg, this means you should be drinking around two litres of water.
MYTH: Meal prep is time-consuming
TRUTH: There’s no denying prepping your meals in advance takes a certain degree of time and forward-planning but if you’re looking to clean up your diet and boost results in the gym then it really is worth it. If you’re looking for a helping hand, have a look at Heat & Eat Lean – from protein carrot cake to salmon risotto, we take the hard work out of meal prep and rest assured everything is home-cooked from scratch with perfectly balanced macronutrients.
Visit HeatAndEatLean.co.uk for more information.