As the second month of 2017 draws to a merciful close, countless men and women strive to uphold their New Year’s Resolutions to get in shape. The resolutions, of course, weaken when confronted with some combination of french fries and distance from the resolution. But eating right needs to be a permanent part of our routine, and fries the exception. The cliche is correct — you literally are what you eat. And that includes your muscles.
Eating right, of course, plays a key role in weight loss and in providing the right amount energy to sustain a good workout. Preparing for a proper workout by eating good whole foods has a number of benefits. Not only does it help build muscle, but it also helps protect existing muscle gain and provides extra energy to make it through the day. For best results, eat any of these five foods about a half hour prior to prep for a great workout, and that optimal body. As food guru Michael Pollan puts it most succinctly: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants…”
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Building muscle requires a good deal of energy from carbohydrates, so to prepare for bulking up, eat a rich grain like oats. Oats, in particular, have a rich fiber content which provides a steady release of carbs into the bloodstream. Oats also contain Vitamin B, which help in the energy production process. Granted, on their own oats make for some bland, dry eating. Having oatmeal, or mixing whole oats with yogurt and fruit, for a snack, helps unlock the rich benefits of oats with a more savory taste.
More than anything, protein helps build muscle and offers a great source of energy for a workout. Before exercise, for best results, avoid oily or fatty foods. Turkey is a great source of protein without much fat content. When digested, turkey aids in protein synthesis; in other words, it helps in muscle production, and protects existing tissue. Having a turkey sandwich, therefore, preps the body to build and protect muscle during exercise. Eating turkey with a whole grain bread (see above) can prep the body with all the nutrients it needs before and after a workout.
Doctors have long espoused the health value of bananas, both in younger children and in older adults. Bananas also have a good supply of nutrients needed for a great workout, like fiber, carbohydrates and vitamins. Just like with oats, having a banana before a workout readies the body by flooding it with energy-rich carbohydrates, and with the fiber to help the body digest them all. Bananas also contain potassium, a mineral key to healthy muscle function. The body has a hard time storing potassium, so eating bananas not only prepares the body to produce muscle, but also supplies the body with the ingredients to build muscle mass too. Oh, and did we mention they are an easy snack for your gym bag? (No comments from the peanut gallery, please!)
Few foods have the rich protein content of yogurt, which has become a pre-workout food of choice. The protein contained in yogurt doesn’t help the body build new muscle, so much as prepare and protect existing muscle for exercise. Protein takes time to digest, so having yogurt before a workout prepares the body with an extended source of energy. While the body uses elements like carbohydrates during a workout, the protein found in yogurt helps preserve existing muscle. Eating yogurt before a workout therefore helps before, after and during to get in shape. Mix it with whole or chopped walnuts, peanuts or almonds for optimal benefits.
5. Cottage Cheese
Like yogurt, cottage cheese contains high amounts of protein, which play a role in building and maintaining muscle after a workout, and like turkey, it does so without flooding the body with fat. Cottage cheese also aids in bone health—something a good deal of workout newbies tend to overlook. Having strong bones helps both before a workout, and long into the future, when old age can cause bones to become brittle. Cottage cheese is rich in Vitamin D and calcium, both of which strengthen bones. Snacking on cottage cheese before a workout therefore prepares the body for the immediate stress of exercise, but for long term health of both muscles and bones. It’s also one of those great foods that mixes well with fruit and veggies. So add everything from tomatoes to blueberries, rich in antioxidants, for a truly healthy pre-workout meal.