Workout Chicken & Sweet Potatoes
What do you eat before and after a work out? I have discovered through trial and error that much depends on what type of exercise I am doing and when I am doing it. For the most part, I work out early in the morning. Most of my classes are at 5:30 a.m. Some are at 7 a.m. and if I am able to adjust my schedule, I prefer to attend 9 a.m. classes or 11 a.m. classes when I can. So what in the heck do you eat at 5:00 a.m.? That is really freaking early in the morning, right?! It’s hard enough to get up that early much less eat anything. It takes some getting used to and it is not really the ideal time for our bodies because sleep is so important for our health. Not getting adequate sleep sets you up for a multitude of health issues, weight gain being one of them. If you work out early like me, then be sure to be sleeping by 9:30 p.m. The best schedule is to sleep when it is dark and to be active when it is light out. However, if you work from 9-5 and/or have children who are in sports and activities in the evenings, and fitness is a priority for you or you just want some me time when no one else needs you for anything, you may find that the butt crack of dawn is the best time to work out. You can gain a great sense of accomplishment by working out early and having your whole day ahead of you. First thing in the morning you are your freshest and you haven’t been drained by your job or your kids or your family drama or some jerk face that cut you off in traffic or whatever your day may throw at you. When I get up early to work out, I am literally putting myself first and everyone that depends on me benefits when I invest in my health and well being. At 5:00 a.m. before working out, I have a small amount of black coffee and maybe a couple bites of a banana. The purpose of this snack is only to give me a little energy and to keep me from feeling hungry. The coffee is stimulating and the banana or other fruit provide some quick energy. I do not want a lot of food that early, especially for a boot camp class with burpees, high knees and running. If you do a class like this in the evening, you should probably not eat any large meals a few hours before it. I made the mistake of having a roast beef sandwich for lunch (BP – Before Paleo) and it was fighting back on me at 7 p.m. Talk about burpees! Keep your lunch light and have some fruit and nuts about an hour or more before. Maybe a hard-boiled egg and an apple.
Blueberry Chia Pudding with blueberries and walnuts
If it is a body pump class, which is a barbell class, that is later in the morning (9 a.m. or later), I will have a medium small breakfast about an hour to an hour and a half before the class starts such as chia pudding and fruit or 1 – 2 eggs and some greens and maybe a spoonful of almond butter or a few nuts. I will have already been up for a few hours before the class starts so I need something more substantial to eat and because the class is not usually very aerobic, I am not worried about it staying down.
Grapefruit with raspberries, walnuts, almond milk, honey & ginger
Most important for pre workout, especially if it is an early morning (5:30 or 6:00 a.m. workout) is that you have eaten healthy and kept hydrated the day before. The one thing that I always do every morning, whether I am going to the gym or not, is as soon as I get out of bed, I have a glass of warm water (not hot, not cold, just warm) with 1/4 of a lemon squeezed into it. The warm water and lemon together get things moving and flowing inside your body. Lemon is a natural diaretic and is the perfect cleanse first thing in the morning. Before you are sitting on a bike, or squatting with weights or running or doing high knees, don’t you want to have your bathroom business out of the way? I know I do and the lemon water works like a charm.
The post work out meal is important because your muscles are most receptive to muscle building protein and complex carbohydrates within the first 15 mins to half hour immediately following your work out. This meal will restore glycogen to your muscles and protein, which will help build that muscle, keep you from getting too sore and speed up your recovery time so that you can do it again sooner. I still get sore sometimes and especially at times that I have increased the amount of weight I am using.
I have experimented with different post work out meals and found that a baked sweet potato (or 2 small ones) and 1 cup of plain chicken breast to be the best post workout meal for me because it has lots of protein and restores glycogen to the muscles. A banana is best before not after because this type of carbohydrate will only replenish the glycogen to your liver and not to your muscles. The chicken is perfect because it is a very lean protein source. It has about 44 grams of protein and if you eat it immediately with some water and the sweet potato you will be getting what I consider to be the perfect post work-out meal. The night before, I put a couple of sweet potatoes in the oven on 400 for about an hour. Meanwhile, I take a package of boneless skinless organic chicken, cut up into bite sized pieces and cook it in about a teaspoon per cup of chicken of coconut oil with a sometimes a little salt and pepper. Then I put a cup of the cooked chicken in a glass container and when the potatoes are ready, I take them out, let cool a bit, wrap in foil and pack it all up for the morning. I call this meal Work Out Chicken and Sweet Potatoes. Depending on how many times you will need said Work Out Chicken and Sweet Potatoes, you can make a big batch and put it in separate containers for your week and use the rest for salads or other dishes. I actually eat the chicken and the sweet potato in my car after my pump class or boot camp. Update: I started peeling the baked sweet potatoes and just putting them right in with the chicken, because, duh! that makes sense and also I don’t eat the skin PWO since the fiber in the skin will slow down absorption.
Embarrassing Car Picnic!
I know I look like a weirdo but whatever. People see me having my little car picnic and I’ll admit I feel embarrassed but If I don’t eat right away, I will get really sore. So pretty much this takes care of the post work out meal and my breakfast at once. I usually bring something to work with me for a late morning snack like some fruit and nuts or raw veggies or I make a green smoothie. If I am doing a 5:30 a.m. spin class, I don’t need to have this immediate post workout meal because that class is mostly aerobic and doesn’t build up lactic acid like body pump which is mostly anaerobic. Prior to the class, I will have half a small banana or a couple slices of apple and a little coffee. I drink a water bottle during the class, refill it and drink another one on the way home. When I get home, I have breakfast, which is often a couple of eggs, avocado, and sauerkraut on top of a small salad or some chia pudding with Maca.
Sauerkraut omelette with avocado and tomatoes
Early morning yoga is my absolute favorite time to do yoga. What a beautiful way to invigorate and wake up your body while calming and and clearing your mind! I drink water during and after and when I get home, I like to have a nice thick and delicious green smoothie that is packed with nutrient dense greens like kale, spinach, collards and arugula and also is thick and satisfying with healthy fats like avocado or sun butter.
kale & avocado smoothie
Like I said, I have experimented with different post work out food. A couple of times I had sardines after a pump class because I am gross. No. That’s not really why, but my 18 year old daughter, who was with me of course was totally grossed out and embarrassed that I would do something so weird in my car at 6:30 a.m. Sardines are actually an excellent post work out meal but not the ones packed in olive oil because the fat will slow down digestion and your muscles will not be able to absorb the protein fast enough. The same thing is true for nuts, steak and eggs with yolks. Whey protein powders are great because you absorb them very quickly, but because they are obviously dairy and a processed food, they are not the best paleo post work-out food. Many people like them best and they are very convenient, not embarrassing like Workout Chicken and not gross like sardines, but you need to select those carefully as many of them contain sweeteners and some of them are contaminated with heavy metals. Everyone is different and should experiment to see what works best for them. You may find it impossible to eat anything at all at 5 a.m. and just have a sip of coffee or some water. You may find you prefer the convenience of whey protein drinks for either before or after your work-out and wouldn’t be caught dead eating sardines in your car or perhaps you’re a little bit of crazy and like the idea of eating fish in your car as you watch the sun rise. Most important is that you do eat a lean protein and complex carbohydrate in that 15 minute to half-hour window after your work-out. And remember to drink plenty of water all throughout the day.
It’s a process for me and I am still thinking and re-thinking this part of my diet.
Okay so if anyone read all of that they really need to get a life but seriously, it really makes me happy if you did. So it’s been about a year since I wrote the above and here is where I am at with regard to pre and post work out nutrition.
I am still eating a paleo diet. I have decided that I am sick of being sore all the time and unable to work out as much as I need to in order to reach my fitness goals so…… I have added dairy back into my diet but only as nutritionally necessary. Well, that’s a little lie because I had some cheese on my Chipotle salad, whatever.
Every morning first thing: warm lemon water
Pre work out: banana and coffee
During: water mixed with BCAAs
After: Protein shake: Whey isolate and glutamine.
I have these supplements for all workout days including spin.
I also consume a small post work out meal of carbs and lean protein: a sweet potato and about a half of a small chicken breast half, so about a quarter of a breast.
Then I drink more coffee because I just want to but I also drink lots of water all day long. I aim to have about 60 ounces of water or about seven eight ounce glasses. Dr. Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain recommends that you drink half your weight in ounces of water per day. Water can be tea, coffee or water, etc. In addition to the 7 glasses of actual water I have coffee and tea as well.
The first year of paleo I aimed to be as pure about it as possible, not because I was hoping to win a place in paleo heaven and be the queen of a paleo cult of which I am the only member but because I wanted to see what the long term affects would be on my body from it. At this time, I am not concerned with being “perfect” at paleo, I am learning as I go and seeing what works best for my body. So far, I am very happy with the supplements I am taking. I am experiencing much faster recovery and I am not over eating because I have given my body the actual proteins it needs to repair and I don’t feel deprived.
In addition to the whey protein shake, I have been eating organic full fat plain yogurt as well as a breakfast or a snack.
Other supplements I have been taking for a while are fish oil, probiotics and turmeric. All good for inflammation, which I have read is at the root of so many chronic health problems including digestive and joint pain.
Living and learning!