Nutrition is just as essential to an athlete’s well-being as a set of burpees, push ups, or a half-hour session of cardio. While it’s certainly important to have some food in your stomach while you’re in the gym, you don’t want to overload.
An example: If you’re heading to an 8 a.m. BodyPump class, I’d roll out of bed by 6:45, but when you head to the kitchen to make breakfast, don’t go too heavy (no pun intended). If I’m teaching a morning class, my pre-class meal typically consists of a protein shake (one scoop), a banana and maybe a small helping of Greek yogurt. It doesn’t sound like much, but if you have too much food in your stomach before class, that could cause dehydration and cramps. If you have to talk and cue a lot, cramping sucks!
When you’re stuck in an office all day like me, it’s difficult to balance your daily meals if you’re heading to, or teaching, an evening class, such as 5:30 p.m. in my case. The question is, when do I eat lunch and how much should I eat? Usually I’ll bring something light from home, i.e. a sandwich with a light side, such as a cucumber, and eat about 4 hours prior to taking the stage. That way, I’ll feel hungry and ready to recover after class, but not bloated and dehydrated while teaching.
A lot of participants and instructors – myself included – will sometimes take back to back classes, or teach one class and take another’s class. I’m known to do this with BodyPump and RPM one way or another. Drinking a shake in between classes isn’t the brightest idea, but a good refueling option is a light granola bar to go with your glass of water or sports drink. While it certainly isn’t a meal replacement, it’ll give you just enough fuel to knock out Round 2, or if you’re a crazy Les Mills fanatic like me, Round 3!
Now, the biggest thing of all, what should you eat upon returning home? First of all, if you put in an hour and a half at the gym and head straight to Mickey D’s or Burger King, then you’re wasting away all the calories you just burned. Plus, it’s never a good idea to eat a full meal immediately after a workout, because the body needs ample time to recover.
A good pre-meal option is either a protein shake or a sports drink. If you’re like me and a protein shake can fill you up to some degree, make your meal a tad lighter, or simply wait about a half-hour or so after consuming your shake. Before making said meal, a healthy light veggie on the side while you’re cooking – such as a cucumber, some lettuce or tomatoes – could suffice before that pot of spaghetti or grilled chicken is ready for your eating pleasure.
I will also add the WORST possible thing you can do is eating right before you go to bed. As a former sportswriter, I had to do this frequently, as those occasional late nights on the road or at the Bangor Auditorium can screw one’s diet up. While it’s never a good idea to go to bed hungry, your body needs time to process the food in your system before you crash. At the most, wait at least an hour and a half or two hours after dinner until you crash.