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5 Eating Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Workout

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As the saying goes: Abs are made in the kitchen. Of course, time in the gym helps, too. “I think nutrition for optimal performance and recovery has gained recent attention because some high-profile athletes have been public about their nutrition strategies. But the science behind this has been around for years,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, a board-certified sports dietitian who has been a consultant to five professional teams and counsels professional athletes in her private practice.

Chef Lindsey Becker founded Tone House FUEL, a clean-eating program designed to help maximize recovery and boost results for people who work out at Tone House, an athletic-based group fitness studio in New York City. “A balanced, healthy diet with the right key nutrients can help your body become more efficient and enhance your athletic performance [in and out of the gym],” she says. “Consuming the necessary nutrients before and after exerting your body can help replenish energy stores, build muscle, decrease soreness, burn fat and repair damage or inflammation.”

Below Becker shares her tips for eating to get the most out of your workouts, with additional expert insights from Sass. Use their advice to ensure what you’re eating is supporting your exercise.

We often focus on calories, but nutrients also matter, Sass says. “Certain nutrients help your brain and muscles perform more efficiently, and others are crucial for recovering from the wear and tear exercise puts on your body,” she explains. The best macronutrients pre- and post-workout depend on the type of workout you’re doing, as well as the length and intensity.

“Eating the right foods will prevent you from crashing, boost your performance and help your muscles recover and grow stronger,” Becker says. “On the other hand, choosing the wrong foods could cause cramping, nausea, lack of energy and improper muscle recovery.”

Becker recommends beets, sweet potatoes, oats, spinach and eggs for their varied benefits. “Beets increase blood flow to working muscles, which can improve your workout and boost stamina, and are rich in antioxidants, which help fight the oxidative stress that can come with intense workouts,” she says.

She likes sweet potatoes for carbs, antioxidants and potassium; oats for steady energy and B vitamins, which help convert carbohydrates into energy; and spinach because a study found that it may help muscles use less oxygen, which improves muscle performance. And of course the incredible edible egg is a source of easily digestible protein to help rebuild muscles.

Aim to eat something that’s high in carbs, moderate in protein and low in fat, sugar and fiber 2–4 hours before a workout. Some macros aren’t ideal before the gym. “Eating too much protein or fat close to the start of a workout can lead to cramps or a brick sitting in your stomach because protein and fat take longer to digest,” Sass says. “Also, the goal of a pre-workout snack is to fuel the workout. If the food is trapped in the digestive system, it’s not available to working muscles when they need it.”

That’s why carbs are great — they’re generally easy to digest and provide readily available, easily burned fuel. Becker recommends oatmeal with a sprinkling of hemp seeds (for protein) and sliced banana or a smoothie.


READ MORE > SCIENCE INVESTIGATES: FASTING VS. CALORIE RESTRICTION?


Sass recommends eating 30–60 minutes after a particularly tough workout. However, although improper recovery can make you go into your next workout weaker and increase the risk of injury, you only need to refuel within an hour after hard-core workouts. This isn’t so crucial after a walk or moderate-intensity group fitness class, particularly if you’ll be eating a meal soon after, Sass says.

“Consuming the necessary nutrients after exerting your body can help replenish energy stores, build muscle, decrease soreness, burn fat and repair any damage or inflammation,” Becker says.

Good advice for anyone, this is even more important for active people because “nutrients are key to performance and recovery, and unprocessed foods are naturally nutrient-rich,” Sass says.

Becker and Sass agree that refined sugars have zero nutritional benefit and fried and greasy foods can be difficult to digest and cause cramping during a workout. So skip that leftover pizza before your morning indoor cycling class.

Great as they are, you shouldn’t only consume these five foods. “Eat them strategically,” Sass recommends. For example, fuel up with oatmeal, sweet potato, beets or green juices pre-workout, and enjoy eggs with veggies and avocado after a morning workout.


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creating healthy habits

BREAK IT DOWN: The Cat-Cow

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Cat–cow is a two-part yoga flow that stretches the front and back of the body while mobilizing the spine. It’s commonly included in yoga classes and in broader fitness sessions, often as part of a warm-up or mobility sequence.

By all appearances, it’s as easy as getting down on hands and knees, arching the back to lower the belly and point head and tailbone to the sky, and then reversing the move to round the back, tucking the chin and pelvis.

But it’s common for people to move quickly and aggressively between the cow (bitilasana) and cat (marjaryasana) poses. Often, limited mobility causes them to flex and extend well only in some segments of their spines. Moving fast and forcing deep flexion and extension can exaggerate these imbalances and lead to neck and lower-back pain.

To avoid these troubles, the first thing to do is slow down. Move through your range of motion painlessly, focusing on finding movement throughout your entire spine. Inhale as you drop your belly and move into cow; exhale as you round your spine for cat. Feel free to practice each pose individually, returning to a tabletop position instead of flowing between cat and cow.

Once you gain comfort flowing with control, explore ways to have fun with cat–cow or further adapt it to your needs. Try adding lateral movement by shifting your hips from side to side with each breath, or try rolling your shoulders back each time you exhale.

Challenge yourself to try to move extra slowly; imagine articulating through the spine vertebra by vertebra.

See what happens if you initiate the movement from your tailbone, especially if you tend to lead with your head and neck.

Practice the move in a chair or other seated position for a more upright variation of the pose.

  1. Start on your hands and knees in an active tabletop position; keep your neck in a neutral position, with your eyes looking down.
  2. Move first into cow: Inhale and lift your tailbone and chest toward the ceiling, as you allow your belly to relax downward. Lift your head to look forward.
  3. Round into cat: Exhale and draw your spine toward the ceiling. Relax the top of your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.
  4. Reverse the motion on an inhale to move back into cow, and repeat the sequence. Stay active through your hands and feet, but take care not to shift your shoulders and hips forward or back by pushing hard into the floor.

WEBEXTRA

Seated Cat–Cow

  • Sit upright on a chair, stool, or bench with your hands in your lap or hanging loosely at your sides, your feet parallel and hip width apart. If your chair has a back, don’t lean into it; sit on the front edge of the seat.
  • Slowly roll the tops of your hips backward, rounding your lower back and allowing your head to tip forward so you are looking down at your lap.
  • Slowly roll the tops of your hips forward, arching your lower back and allowing your head to tip backward so you can look at the ceiling.
  • Repeat the sequence slowly and with control; focus on the breath and quality of movement rather than pushing or forcing your body to stretch. Draw your shoulders downward, away from your ears, while you perform the movement, and focus on the movement in the hip joints.

This article originally appeared as “The Cat-Cow” in the May 2021 issue of Experience Life.

The post BREAK IT DOWN: The Cat-Cow appeared first on Experience Life.

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Buff Bombshell Show Special Guest: Rachel Daniels

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In this week’s episode, the ladies – Emma Hyndman, The Posing Pro and Bikini Amateur Lauren Lotter – talk to the incredible Rachel Daniels. In a short but well-earned competitive career, Rachel has gone from IFBB Bikini amateur to Women's Physique pro and also made her Olympia debut in 2020. We have no doubt that Rachel is here to conquer all her goals, one being The New Era Poser.

We will be catching up with Rachel later this year to find out how she has progressed in her bodybuilding career and hear more about her continuing passion for the sport.

–Lauren & Emma

#FitnessRXforWomen #Olympia #WomensBodyBuilding #RachelDaniels

 

The post Buff Bombshell Show Special Guest: Rachel Daniels first appeared on FitnessRX for Women.

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STRONG BODY, STRONG MIND: Let’s Go Streaking

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I completed my 96th consecutive day of running today. In the past three months, I’ve logged about 185 miles.

This may or may not sound impressive to you. But for me, the part of this story that is the most bewildering is that for 96 days straight — no matter the weather (it’s been a hot and steamy summer; it’s August as I write) and no matter my mood (overwhelmingly anxious) — I have run at least one mile every day.

As someone who doesn’t identify as a “runner,” this is just wild.

The idea came to me last May. I’d spent the previous two months going on long daily walks, which was one way I coped with the early days of the pandemic. Turning one mile out of my four-mile loop into a run seemed like a good way to pick up the pace while increasing the difficulty.

This commitment lasted a couple of weeks, until a stormy day gave me an excuse to skip running and walking altogether. After 16 days of running, I patted myself on the back, lay back on the couch, and opened Instagram.

That’s when I saw one of a series of articles by my friend (and Experience Life contributor) Elizabeth Millard about the Runner’s World Run Streak, for which she profiled people who ran daily for weeks, months, even years! I was blown away. It turned out my little running experiment was nothing novel — and it even had a name.

A “run streak,” I discovered, refers to the number of consecutive days you go for a run. According to the United States Running Streak Association, all it takes is one mile per calendar day. As I dug deeper, I was inspired by seasoned streakers, including one woman who was working toward a 1,000-day streak.

On May 18, after my single day off, I recommenced with Day 1.

In doing so, I didn’t have a plan. I still just wanted to aim for a mile a day, at whatever pace felt right. I didn’t have an end date in mind: I figured my body would let me know when it was done. I promised myself that I’d listen.

Through the rest of May, June, and July, I ran my mile. At the beginning of August, on a whim, I signed up for the Twin Cities in Motion’s Looniacs Challenge to run 100 miles that month.

Now I was upping the ante by committing to increasing my daily distance from one mile to about three. It seemed like a big jump, but I was tempted — and still committed to listening to my body and stopping when it said enough.

Recovery — through proper nutrition, sleep, stress management, mobility work, and true rest — is always critical, no matter my activity. But over the years I’ve learned that recovering from runs is more challenging for me than recovering from other workouts. Although my mind loves running, my body isn’t always a fan.

So I doubled down on my recovery routine and focused on varying my running routes, distances, and intensity as much as I could.

I continued to cross-train, strength-training three times a week and doing brief yoga sessions almost daily. I’m convinced that my long history of strength, conditioning, and mobility work has supported me in my run-streak experience.

As occasional discomfort cropped up, I paid attention and took action. I invested in new running shoes and professional bodywork that I could maintain on my own. I listened to my body, yes, but I heeded my mind, too. My mind wanted to run. It wanted to know how far and how long I could go.

To date, the answer is 96 days and 185 miles. A part of me hopes that when you read this, I’ll still be streaking and feeling amazing. Perhaps I’ll be running my miles through snowdrifts, perhaps on a treadmill. Or perhaps my mind and body will have agreed to stop well before the season turned.

Either way, I’m grateful for the consistency that streaking has given me these last few months.

Each day, I’m guaranteed a workout, even if it’s just a 12-minute jog around my neighborhood. Each day, I find success by completing something hard, no matter how small or insignificant a mile might seem in the grand scheme.

And each day has been a reminder that small, hard things done consistently can amount to something huge — something that once might have been impossible.

This originally appeared as “Let’s Go Streaking” in the January/February 2021 print issue of Experience Life.

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