The alarm rings, you get up, dress, go to the gym, jump on the treadmill and run your daily miles, lift the weights, leave and get ready to do it again the next day. It takes effort and persistence — and the right foods at the right times! If you are putting in all this work, why not get all the benefits? If you are not eating the right things at the right time, you may not be getting everything you possibly could from your workouts.
“The right foods in your system on a day-to-day basis is what plays the biggest role in making your body efficient,” says Heather Mangieri, Pittsburgh-based Sports Dietician and National Spokesperson for nutrition. “It’s not the meal before or the meal after as much as it is continually making healthy food choices.” Check out a few more tips from Mangieri and recipes that will help you apply those tips to your daily life.
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What you eat before your workout is dependent upon why you are working out — are you trying to lose fat? Exercise in the morning and don’t eat before the workout. Are you preparing for a long-distance run or competition? Eat for endurance by consuming a balanced meal three hours prior; closer to the activity eat and drink less or it could lead to distress in your GI tract. When you exercise, you are demanding performance from your body; if your body is busy digesting food, it will have less to help you physically.
After a strenuous workout, hydrate and help your body recover with an orange or smoothie to help with glycogen restoration. Whenever you eat, whether pre or post-exercise, make sure your plate is balanced with whole grains, vegetables, meat/fish/poultry, low-fat dairy products, and a healthy fat which will slow down your digestion.
“By eating balanced meals, you are giving your body the foods that will provide the key nutrients needed, such as carbohydrates for fueling activity and protein to help build and repair tissue,” stresses Mangieri. “If you are exercising for fitness, this may be all the food you need for the day.”
“If you are an athlete, consuming carbohydrate rich foods and fluids before exercise helps to increase or ‘top off’ muscle glycogen stores, prevent hunger and provide a mental boost.” Examples of these foods are a piece of toast with a teaspoon of peanut butter and jelly, low-fat yogurt, 1/2 of a turkey sandwich, a smoothie or a banana with peanut butter. Examples of post exercise foods are cereal with milk, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chocolate milk or a sports drink.
Here is Mangieri’s recipe for a nutritious smoothie for pre-workout, post-workout or anytime snack:
Fruit and Greens Smoothie
- 1/2 cup green grapes
- 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 1-1/2 cup raw cabbage or kale, chopped
- 1/2 apple
- 1/3 cup fresh pineapple chunks
- 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
- 1 cup ice
Put all ingredients in the container of a blender, blend and serve.
Giant Eagle makes it easy for Pittsburghers to cook healthful meals by posting nutritious recipes on its website. The site also allows you to easily make a grocery list to take to your local Giant Eagle store. Be sure to check the “healthy recipe” box when searching the site and you will find delicious recipes, like these below, which both follow the heart-healthy, low-fat protein Mangieri recommends.
Balsamic Marinated Chicken
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (oregano will work as well)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1-1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
In a small mixing bowl, stir together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Put the chicken in a small dish, add the marinade and refrigerate for 1 hour (or longer, if need be). Flip the chicken half-way through if the marinade does not cover it. Remove the chicken and drain off any excess marinade.
Preheat the oven to broil, line a metal baking pan with foil and rub with a little vegetable oil (olive oil will tend to smoke under the broiler). Broil the chicken about 5 – 7 minutes per side or until done (no pink in the middle).
Herb and Onion Frittata
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, divided
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup liquid egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters
- 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons farmer’s cheese, or reduced-fat ricotta
Put the onion and water into a small saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat about two minutes. Uncover, continue cooking until the water has evaporated — watch closely so it doesn’t burn. Add the olive oil and continue cooking for a couple minutes more, stirring constantly.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the Egg Beaters, dill, salt, and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the onions, stirring slightly, and turn the heat to low. Cook until the egg begins to set and, using a turner, lift the edges slightly so the uncooked egg runs underneath and cooks. Once the egg has completely set, flip it onto a plate and spread the cheese on top. Enjoy!