The first facet of guidelines: EAT MORE.
In my own experience as an athlete and as a former calorie-obsessor, I've found that women who exercise or are starting to exercise benefit greatly from increasing their calories in a couple places: namely, by adding in a pre and post workout meal.
These aren't your lunch and dinner--they're special workout snacks, made just for you and your newfound exercise (or existing exercise program if you're already an avid worker-out-er (pretending that's a word)).
Read carefully, I am NOT saying that you need to start eating 3000 calories a day and giving yourself the green light to destroy the fridge every night.
What I AM saying is that if you already burn X amount of calories per day based on your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Check yours out here: Find out my BMR!
So what is your BMR? That's how many calories it requires you to BE ALIVE. Not doing things, not walking around, and definitely not exercising! Quoting BodyBuilding.com because it's perfect:
Based on my height and weight, I need roughly 1600 calories just to exist. I use that as a starting off point. At no point should I be eating LESS than that if my goal is to be able to make it through the day and especially if I want to make it through my workouts!
Next up, you can figure out how much you burn: Find out how many calories I burn!
Again, based on this calculator, I burn roughly 2000 a day. Obviously that number is not perfect, some days I'll burn more and some days I'll burn less.
Since my goal is to maintain my weight, I try and eat at or around 2000 calories. Now, if you're eating a whole foods, plant based, lean meats and healthy fats kind of diet, that takes a LOT of food to get to 2000 calories!
But since we're focusing on just adding in a pre and post workout meal, here are some easy and healthy food combinations to try! If you track calories, see how you feel adding in one meal or both. The key here is to be patient and consistent and keep track of what works and what doesn't for YOUR body.
I find that I need to eat about 2 hours before I work out--any less and I'll feel sick, any longer and I'll be hungry. Your window could range from as long as three hours before to only 30 minutes. Play around with timing and see what makes you feel your best during a workout!
My favorite pre-workout snacks:
- Oatmeal with protein powder, flaxseeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds
- Banana with 1tbsp of sunbutter on a piece of Ezekiel toast
- Small sweet potato with about 2oz of chicken or tuna
- A Clif Protein bar
- Belvitas and a protein shake (NOT the healthiest option, but when I have nothing else on hand, these are an amazing energy source to have an hour before I workout)
Find the combination of carbs to protein to fat that works for you; ideally, you want this to be a more protein/carb focused meal with a little bit of fat.
Now, depending on the time of day that you workout, your post-workout meal might coincide with dinner or breakfast. If that's the case, I would urge you to eat something small within 45 minutes of finishing your workout and then eat your next meal. It may take some getting used to, and maybe it just doesn't work for you, but if your goal is to have enough energy to workout, it's important to make sure you're feeding your body enough energy sources.
Easy post-workout meals:
- A protein shake and a banana (click here for the protein powder I use)
- Protein bar
- Fruit with 1tbsp peanut or almond butter on toast
- Low-fat cottage cheese with fruit
Keep it simple! Don't stress about eating the perfect portion of protein to carbs to fat, just eat! Eat enough to feed your body.
A couple good indicators that you're currently not eating enough:
- You feel muscle fatigue quickly during your workouts
- Your muscles become too fatigued to finish the workout
- You get faint or lightheaded during your workouts
- You feel hungry (this sounds like common sense, but trust me, it's not)
And that's enough to get you started!
If you have questions, things that work for you, foods you like, share them in the comments!