What you eat matters. The idea that you can eat whatever you want – as long as you’re burning off more calories than you’re eating – is outdated. Especially if you’re addicted to heavily processed foods, like many Americans are.
Processed foods are generally described as “not real food.” They have little nutritional value, they’re full of synthetic ingredients and they’re dangerously addictive. They’re also completely destroying your workouts, from before you hit the gym to trying to refuel after you’re done sweating.
WHY SIMPLE CARBS AREN’T ENOUGH
Carbs are important, especially when it comes to fuel before and after exercise. But it’s not good enough just to swallow a bowl of your favorite breakfast cereal before you hit the gym.
Your body burns through your calories in a very specific order. Simple carbs (most commonly found in heavily processed foods like candy) are the first to go. Your body burns through them quickly, making them an OK intervention when you’re about to do a quick workout that requires a lot of energy in very little time. But they are not suitable for fueling endurance workouts, or refueling after exercise. The energy they provide does not last, and your body needs energy for recovery.
Most of the simple carbs you have access to are found in refined grains, foods containing added sugars and artificial ingredients and flavorings – things that go through heavy processing in a factory before you eat them. They’ll give you a rush of energy, sure, but not enough to fuel your next workout, even if it’s over 24 hours from now.
PROCESSED FOODS AND BLOOD FLOW
Working out puts your heart and lungs into overdrive – which, in moderation, just means they need more oxygen. More of your blood flows to your respiratory system to provide the oxygen necessary to keep you alive.
But do you know what happens when you try living off a diet made up of mostly processed foods? Plaque starts to build up in your blood vessels. Which makes it harder for your blood to travel from place to place. Which forces your heart to work far beyond overdrive. That’s where heart disease begins.
In the shorter term, though, it makes it harder for you to breathe while you’re working out. Your lungs need oxygen – they can’t get it if your blood can’t get it there fast enough. And if you can’t breathe right, well, forget strength training, and endurance, and, well, all of it.
THERE’S NO PROTEIN IN POTATO CHIPS
Okay, fine, there’s a gram or two per serving, depending on the brand. But think less about macros for a second and more about the actual food you’re eating. There’s protein in a lot of junk foods – that doesn’t make them healthy. This becomes a major problem when you consider how important quality protein is for post-workout muscle repair.
You need protein after every workout so your muscles can repair and grow – otherwise, they’ll break down. Quality sources of protein like chicken, nuts and veggies not only give your muscles the protein they need – they also supply other forms of energy to help your body start to prepare for your next training session. It’s not just about protein – it’s about all your macros working together to keep you healthy so you can train again. And, you know, survive.
Fuel your workouts, before and after, with real, nutritious food. Filling your body with junk isn’t going to do you any favors when it’s time to get serious about training. Take care of yourself. Feed your body well, and you’ll notice the difference in your energy levels – and so much more.