I had my first legit “Ah-Ha” moment about a month ago in regards to how food seriously is FUEL.
Before a month ago I would say I was just maintaining my body weight. I wasn’t really focusing on trying to lose weight and I wasn’t really training any differently so I would strength train 3-5 days a week and pretty much was eating whatever I wanted. So it’s safe to say…I was fueled up haha.
My coach challenged me to get 20 hip thrusts with 225lbs…I FOR SURE thought there was no way in hell that I would be able to do that but I gave it a shot and ya girl pumped out 25 SOLID reps at 225.
I was STOKED. “Wow I’m like so much stronger than I thought I was AMAZING life’s awesome.” Whatever.
The following week I had decided that I wanted to cut a couple pounds so I dropped my calories a bit too much and on day 4 of my caloric cut, I didn’t think much of it and I tried to hit 25 reps at 225lbs again.
Uhm. FAILED at 15 reps. Like COULD NOT get that shit up.
I kinda sat with this for a few days and had to ask myself if this caloric cut was even worth it if I wouldn’t be able to exert the same amount of energy. Not to mention, I was just about to start training more seriously for my first triathlon and 1/2 marathon so then I started asking myself some questions like…
“How much do I really need to be eating right now in order to fuel up properly but not GAIN weight?”
“What if I actually not only want to fuel up properly but I also would like to lose weight while I’m at it?”
“What do I need to eat before a run?”
“What distance of a run classifies as something that I should probably fuel up for vs. something that I can do without the extra cals?”
“Do I need protein and carbs after or just protein? What’s up with having fat before or after my workout?”
The list goes on. My brain was spinning and I started hitting up my coach at @SHOWUPFITNESS for all the details. I’ve been sticking to strength training and maybe a 30 minute beach run here and there for the last year so I didn’t feel confident in understanding any of this. AT ALL.
BUT now I will say that I feel like I’m getting the hang of it. I’ve been doing strength training, run practice, and swim practice and I feel AMAZING though all my training sessions, I’m sleeping like a baby, I have energy throughout the day and I can see my body toning up.
SO let’s GET INTO IIIIIIT.
Beginning with question #1: “How much do I really need to be eating right now in order to fuel up properly but not GAIN weight?”:
First of all – depending on what your goals are, you need to figure out how many calories your body really needs.
For me for example, I’m 133 pounds. SO my body burns appx 1,200 cals a day at rest. This means that on a day where don’t work out, I would need to consume roughly 1,200 cals in order to maintain my weight.
But I workout 6 days a week so that puts me closer to 2,100 cals burned a day. This is important to know because I could easily feel much hungrier from all of these new workouts and down 2,500 cals in a day – EASY. But that would put me in a position where I would be consuming more than I’m burning which would lead to weight GAIN.
Question #2: “What if I actually not only want to fuel up properly but I also would like to lose weight while I’m at it?”
So if 2,100 cals is what I need to maintain my current weight AND fuel up properly for my workouts, then in order to lose weight I would need to create a deficit from there. This number is entirely up to you and what you feel good with. I’ve decided to try 1,550 daily. I feel great with the workouts I’m doing and consuming this amount per day. I had to play around with this number so don’t expect to just nail it your first time. If you need help figuring out your personalized macros you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about a nutritional consultation, OR check out my 2020 training plan here.
Question #3: What do I need to eat before a run?
Once I figured out how many calories I can have a day, I needed to figure out my macros + WHEN the ideal time was to have those macros. (Macros = macronutrients = carbs, fats and protein). Since I’m doing running, biking, cycling and some resistance training, we needed to bring my carbs up so my macros look like this: Carbs = 200g a day // Fats = 20-30g a day // Protein = 125g a day.
This is where I was super curious about food timing because like I said, for the last year my main focus has been strength training. Typically I would wake up around 5 am, have a cappuccino and then do my strength workout at 10:00am and feel great. (Remember I wasn’t doing any cardio at the time). So why is it that I feel like I need more carbohydrates now that I’m incorporating running, biking and swim into my routine?
Well when we eat carbs, they get broken down into glucose and from there they get stored as glycogen primarily in the muscles and liver. When we do strength training we use glycogen primarily from our muscle storages but since strength training includes rest in between sets, we don’t use a ton of what we have stored.
Endurance training on the other hand is typically non stop work which we need constant fuel for over the course of 30-90 minutes or sometimes even longer.
If our glycogen storages are low then they will deplete quickly which will cause us to fatigue out much faster.
So before any of my running, swimming, or biking practice, I’ll have a small packet of oatmeal with a tbsp of almond butter and a matcha late which comes out to about 45g of carbohydrates.
Question #4: “What distance of a run classifies as something that I should probably fuel up for vs. something that I can do without the extra cals?
I also tested this out. I signed up for a running class every Sunday morning at the start of my training. The first 3 weeks before practice I would have my oatmeal breakfast and week 4 I decided to see if I could exert the same amount of work and not feel fatigued during practice. What I noticed was that I completed the practice just fine but a few hours later I felt way more tired than I had the weeks prior. At that point my glycogen storages we’re just too low so I can avoid that by making sure I’m fueling up properly before each practice.
Before a 30 minute endurance workout it’s good to aim for 25-30g of carbs while it’s better to actually carb load days prior to practice for any endurance training that will last 90 minutes or longer.
Question #5: “Do I need protein and carbs after or just protein? What’s up with having fat before or after my workout?”
To understand what would be most ideal after your workout it’s important to look at what kind of exercise you did and what your body did in order to fuel you for that. So remember that in a strength training workout, you definitely used glycogen but not quite as much as you would have had you done a 1 hour endurance workout. Also, you broke down a little but of protein so post workout would ideally be something that refuels your glycogen storages and helps to build up that broken down muscle.
According to this article on HealthLine, Studies have shown that ingesting 20–40 grams of protein seems to maximize the body’s ability to recover after exercise (6Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
Consuming 0.5–0.7 grams of carbs per pound (1.1–1.5 grams/kg) of body weight within 30 minutes after training results in proper glycogen resynthesis (1Trusted Source).
Furthermore, insulin secretion, which promotes glycogen synthesis, is better stimulated when carbs and protein are consumed at the same time (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
If you plan on working out again later that same day then you would want to have more carbs than usual after your first workout. So for example if you’re going to do a 30 minute run in the am, you’d want to have 25-30g of carbs before your run. Afterwards you would go for 20g of protein + 80-100g of carbs instead of just 50-60g. This way you replenish from workout 1 and fuel up for workout 2.
As far as fat goes – it’s not highly recommended to consume a lot of fat after a workout because it slows down the absorption of the other nutrients you’re having BUT it doesn’t reduce the benefits. But I just feel like the faster I can replenish – the better, so I stick to a very small amount of fat in my post workout meal.
Now before you go and get all excited about extra carbs – remember that things like sweet potatoes, fruit, oatmeal and quinoa are all great sources of carbohydrates. This doesn’t mean you should just start downing donuts and pasta everyday! Haha even though that sounds ideal. Enjoy your cheat meals as your normally would and go for low cal, high carb options for training so you can hit your calorie AND macro goal.
There’s definitely a benefit to paying attention to these things instead of just winging it. Like I said, I’ve noticed ever since I’ve upped my training and have been food logging that my body is starting to lean out and I have enough energy to get through all of my workouts.
Let me know if theres anything else you have questions about or would want me to cover! Excited to continue this training!