When was the last time you ate a massive meal minutes before an Orangetheory class and had a great workout? Chances are the answer is never.
Your healthy lifestyle doesn’t start when you strap into the rowing machine, or end with the cool-down stretch. Food selection and the timing of meals play a major role in maximizing your performance and ensuring the best possible results.
Just as the exercises used throughout an Orangetheory class are backed by science, so are the nutrition strategies experts advise.
“If you are investing time and energy to work out, then nourish your body to maximize your efforts,” says Kim Plessel, a registered dietitian and Orangetheory Medical Advisory Board member. “Food is fuel and can help invigorate your workouts and your life.”
Through the selection of healthy foods enjoyed at the right times, these tips will help turbocharge your next training.
What to Eat Before a Workout
“Hydration is probably the most important thing,” says Fabio Comana, an Orangetheory Medical Advisory Board member who has a dual master’s degree in nutrition and exercise physiology.
He suggests keeping a water bottle in sight starting twenty-four hours before your next workout and sipping from it often. By the time the sensation of thirst kicks in, we’re already 1% dehydrated, and physical performance is compromised when we’re about 2%-3% dehydrated.
The amount of water you should drink daily depends on several factors, including your activity level, diet, perspiration while exercising and more. To get a baseline for understanding your individual hydration needs, calculate your ideal intake based on your age using a formula provided by WW.
In addition to drinking a sufficient amount of water, Comana suggests a 150-calorie snack one to two hours before a workout. For women, he recommends 10 to 15 grams of carbs and 10 to 15 grams of protein; for men, 15 to 20 grams of carbs and 15 to 20 grams of protein. The light carb is used to fuel the body and maintain blood sugar levels, and a quality protein, such as whey, is meant to rapidly absorb into the body and help minimize the breakdown of protein and muscle damage during training.
Plessel does her workouts in the morning, so she will drink ¼ of a smoothie that includes almond milk, plain Greek yogurt or whey powder (protein), and mixed fruit (carbohydrates) before exercising, saving the rest for her post-workout recovery.
Staying Hydrated During Class
If you prepared for your workout using the above tactics, by the time class starts you will be optimally hydrated. However, that doesn’t mean you should stop drinking water.
In order to offset dehydration while exercising, Comana recommends sipping about seven to 10 ounces (or mouthfuls) of water every 15 minutes while exercising.
“If you are dehydrated, you will inadvertently decrease intensity so you don’t need to sweat as much,” Plessel says, adding that some indicators of dehydration include side effects such as fatigue and dizziness.
Drinking sufficient amounts of water during class is important, but Comana says not to stress too much about trying to replenish all fluids lost while you’re exercising, because that is part of the post-workout strategy. “The reality is, you could probably never drink enough fluid during your workout to match your sweat rates,” he says.
Refueling When Class Is Over
If you’re a fan of sports drinks, post-workout is when Comana suggests using an electrolyte-filled drink to rehydrate.
“The most important and usually undervalued and under-represented strategy post-exercise is the rehydration process,” Comana says. “Everyone likes their protein shakes and everyone takes their carbs, but they may not realize that they are not getting enough fluid.”
Immediately after a workout, it’s most important to prioritize fluid intake because dehydrated cells can’t perform muscle protein synthesis. “Especially if you are someone who sweats a lot, then rehydration is going to be even more critical for you,” Comana says.
According to Comana, you’ll need to drink up to 25 percent more liquid than the amount you lost during the workout if you’re refueling with an electrolyte solution. If you drink water, you’ll have to drink up to 50 percent more fluid than you lost while working out in order to replenish your cells to allow for muscle growth.
“The goals of recovery nutrition are to provide high-quality protein to repair and build muscle, replace carbohydrate (glycogen) stores, and rehydrate fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat,” Plessel says.
She recommends having a Greek yogurt or drink made with whey powder, which provides a leucine-rich source of protein, within two hours of training. Following that, she says to make a conscious effort throughout the day to consistently eat protein every three to five hours in order to maximize lean muscle build.
In need of protein-and-carb-rich recipe inspiration? Here are some ideal post-workout snacks from WW you can incorporate.
When you’re prioritizing hydration and eating strategically before and after a workout, you’ll be able to optimize both your performance and results. Comana notes that the best way to reap the benefits from these healthy choices is by also making healthy decisions throughout the rest of the day.
“You cannot put junk gasoline in your car and then, the day before you take a long drive, expect to put in high octane fuel and have a great trip,” Comana says. “You are what you eat. So the underlying kind of philosophy behind fueling optimally for a workout is also just eating well in general.”