Feed The Beast: Pre- & Post-Workout Nutrition
It’s a simple fact of life but it never gets any less true: food is your body’s fuel. If the fight is won in the gym, then it’s also won in the kitchen. Your athletic performance will never reach its peak if you don’t have a healthy diet to back it up.
When you’re a Muay Thai fighter, or any kind of explosive athlete, your body is constantly working those fast twitch fibers. It’s great fun but it can also be grueling on your body and unfortunately, sports will wreck your joints over time. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re eating the right kind of foods to keep your body in top condition.
You need carbohydrates and protein. While they both do different things, you can’t have great fitness without both. Carbohydrates give you the energy to get through hard workouts, to be able to push more and work out harder. The downside is that when you work out you will inevitably cause micro tears on the muscles. This is why you need protein. Your muscles absorb protein and use it to repair and grow larger to better manage the awful strain you’re putting the poor things through.
That’s why today we’ll be looking at five simple easy meals that will help your athletic performance. These are all meals that I use myself and have greatly improved my performance and made me feel far healthier just walking around.
Pre-Workout: Preparing For All-Out Hell
These meals are essential for giving you the energy you need to perform well in the gym. If you’ve ever skipped breakfast and went on to have quite a busy day, you probably felt pretty awful after a few hours. Imagine skipping breakfast and then going on to try to do a workout at the gym; you’ll be sucking on air very quickly and will probably keel over. I know this because it happened to me.
When you don’t have the energy to get through your workout, you won’t be able to push your muscles. While the workout might seem harder, because you have less gas in the tank you’re not able to get the most out of your workout, since your muscles won’t even be able to get to the point where they can fatigue.
When trying to recover, your body will happily break down its own muscle in order to try to recover. This is very ineffective and will result in mediocre muscle growth, if any at all.
Porridge is a great tool for keeping yourself healthy. While it’s not exactly the most exciting breakfast on paper, it’s been a staple of many cultures diets for hundreds of years for a reason. It’s cheap, and it’s nutritious. While it’s not devoid of protein, it really is a carb powerhouse. Porridge tends to release energy slowly throughout the day which means that by the time you get to your evening workout, you’ve still got a lot of energy left to burn. That will push you through the workout far better than if you ate something lean like an apple.
Not only that, but it acts to keep cholesterol low and it is rich in fiber, which can help to lose weight. If you want lean muscle, then porridge is a great building block to get there.
But don’t worry, porridge doesn’t have to be bland and boring. In fact, porridge being bland makes it very easy to flavor with whatever you like. Get your favorite flavor protein powder and mix it in with your porridge. This means you’re getting all the benefits of porridge, plus a part of your daily protein intake with whatever taste you like.
Mix in your favorite fruits and you’ve got a great meal to start your day with.
#2: Peanut Butter & Banana Toast
I know what you’re thinking: peanut butter and bananas doesn’t exactly sound like a winning combination. I know I retched when I first saw my chef cousin eat one seven years ago. While it sounds like the concoction of a mad man, when it comes to getting energy, it has everything you need: carbohydrates, protein and most importantly, potassium.
Potassium enhances muscle strength, lowers blood pressure and helps your body replenish electrolytes such as calcium, sodium and magnesium. Without potassium, you are far more susceptible to cramps, which is not a good thing if you’re participating in a sport where a sudden cramp can result in your opponent seriously injuring you. Thankfully bananas are by far the easiest way to get a good dose of potassium.
Make your toast, spread peanut butter on it and then slice some banana up and put it on the toast. There’s your recipe!
A popular Japanese breakfast, omurice is a great source of carbohydrates and protein. Those carbs will help you get through workouts with ease, and the protein will help you recover from them more easily. Keep in mind that if you train every day, after a good night’s rest getting more protein into your system is a great way to heal the damage from the day before.
You want to start by cracking four eggs and whisking them together. While you do that, you’ll want brown rice on the boil until it becomes soft and fluffy. Start frying your omelette in a wok; once it looks done, pour in your rice. Fold the edges of your omelette round the rice and then flip it on your plate and it’s ready.
Usually, you would pour some ketchup and add a bit of flavour, but you can always deviate from tradition. Sliced jalapenos or ham and cheese can give you a fun Mexican/Japanese hybrid and add some flavor.
Post-Workout: Patching Up The War Wounds
After a hard workout, your body is going to be craving some energy. While it’s all well and good taking a protein shake, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make yourself a proper meal and help your body rejuvenate. You’ve been shredding your muscle tissue for hours and now it absolutely needs some care.
#1: Lomi Salmon
This Hawaiian dish is fantastic for muscle recovery. Salmon is one of the richest sources of protein you can ask for and will fix your muscles right up.
Dice up fresh, raw salmon (or recently defrosted, or cooked if you can’t quite stomach raw) and mix it up with diced tomato, onion and cucumber. You’ll want at least five portions of fruit and vegetable a day if you can manage it! This will keep you healthy, alert and full of the vitamins you need.
Once you have your diced meal, mix it with crushed ice. It’s cheap, easy and quick to make, giving you everything you need to recover after a workout.
#2: Steak and Vegetables
Steak is a powerhouse meal. Your body needs roughly a gram of protein per pound of body weight (or more) in order to build muscle. Steak is one of the best sources of it when properly grilled. Regardless of whether it’s beef or the much leaner venison, you can get up to 40 grams of protein per steak.
Vegetables like broccoli will give you a good source of fiber and sweet potato makes for some easy carbohydrates to help your body heal all the muscle it’s damaged during your gym wars.
Remember: food is fuel and when you’re revving your engine to get ready for a fight, it’s best to make sure that you don’t find yourself running on empty!
- Andrew Bryan is an actor, writer and martial artist based in the UK. He likes long walks on the beach, fighting technique, and history.