An interview with trainer and nutritionist, Lindsay Christen
As January came and went, so too went many of our New Year’s Resolutions, sometimes it’s hard to make our lofty goals (I’m going to run faster, eat healthier, drink less coffee) a habit overnight. So let’s press the reset button. We caught up with trainer and certified nutritionist, Lindsay Christen, to talk about changing habits and the most common nutrition question she gets asked.
QUESTION: “What should I eat before or after a workout?”
Lindsay: Eating the right foods at the right time is essential to getting the most out of your workouts. For pre-workout you always need a little bit of something in your body and you’ll feel better if it’s 45-minutes to an hour before your workout. The general idea is that you’re filling up your energy stores. If your meals the day and week before have been healthy and balanced your glycogen, the storage form of energy in your body, should be good. Those taps should be full, so you’re just topping-off the tank when you have a pre-workout snack—it doesn’t need to be large.
Right before a workout, a little bit of something like banana and almond butter, or non-fat Greek yogurt, or a couple of eggs are perfect, something small but enough to give the glycogen stores a boost.
The dinner the night before an event or big workout should be lots of lean protein, chicken or fish—vegetarians can eat beans, lentils, tofu—and lots of veggies and complex carbs (starchy veggies, whole grains, like rice, quinoa). That combination should give your body what it needs for the next day. For an endurance athlete, depending on what they’re training for, 45-65% of total calories should be from carbohydrates. It’s a big window and it’s on the higher end, but they need it for the workouts, otherwise you feel like you’re on an empty tank all the time.
What’s really important is the post workout snack. The right combination of nutrients and timing can optimize your lean muscle building while minimizing breakdown (soreness and fatigue). But you only have a window of 30 minutes after exercise when the body is most efficiently absorbing much needed nutrients. If you miss the window, your body will try to replenish on its own by depleting your fat and energy stores.
Newton: What’s a good post-workout snack? Is there anything to chocolate milk?
Lindsay: Chocolate milk is not terrible. It’s a good source as long as it’s the good kind and not filled with high fructose corn syrup. A protein smoothie is good. You’re looking for a 2-1 or 3-1 carb to protein ratio in grams. This equates to 1-1.5g of carbohydrate for every kg of your body weight and 0.5g or protein/kg of body weight. This could be a bar that you throw in your gym bag for the way home, peanut butter and apple or a peanut butter banana sandwich really works well, or fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, and a scoop of protein powder.
Now, if you just finished an Ironman, or marathon, you can eat whatever you want. You’re going to be depleted no matter what. You need to get nutrients in as soon as possible after the race, and then continually. Usually liquids work well, you want electrolytes, and then carbs and proteins.
Lindsay’s Caveat: No matter what you do, start early. Incorporate these changes into your routine months and months beforehand. It’s not going to work for you if you start on race day. Eating well has to be a habit. You need to build your body into the machine you want it to be in race season. You also don’t want to add everything in at the same time. It’s February, so this is the perfect time to add things in if you have a race in June, July or August. It’s about developing the right habits to weave into your lifestyle. It shouldn’t just be, “It’s race season, so I am going to stop eating hamburgers.” Our bodies are machines and the more quality fuel you can give it now, the more efficient it will be in performance when you need it.
Lindsay Christen, is a certified personal trainer (CPT) and certified nutritionist (CNS). She holds a Masters of Science in nutrition. You can find her at Boulder’s Colorado Athletic Club or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.