This article is also on JPFitness, Feel free to comment or ask questions about this program and many other articles, topics, and programs, here or at JP's.
Workout nutrition in a pinch
Roland Denzel, IKFF-CKT
Workout nutrition is the food you eat or drink before, during, or after your workout. Many people drink a homemade workout shake just before and/or just after. Some of you drink specific formulas made specifically for training and recovery, either purchased from a sports supplement company or whipped up at home from tubs of whey and dextrose and Gatorade powder. There are also "chocolate milk people," who choose to go with this old childhood favorite and its protein and carb makeup and track record of success. Still others insist that solid food, before and after, is the way to go.
Whatever you choose is up to you, but don't discount the idea that maximizing your training and recovery is the real goal. If your regular meal schedule already lets you train at your highest level, then you're already good to go with your workout nutrition. If you need a nutritional or energy boost to take your training to where you want it to be, then do what you need to do.
By and large, I don't think it's all that big a deal, but only because of my typical eating patterns. I only really worry about something specific if I'm hungry. It's not usually an issue, since I tend to eat an hour or two before a workout. That's usually good enough for the energy I need, and I tend to eat plenty of protein at every meal, so I've always got plenty "floating around" and at the ready. The problem is usually when I wait too long to hit the gym and get hungry!
I train after work, and keep a gym bag in my car, and I can hit any 24 Hour Fitness along the way home. When traffic is rough, or work calls longer than usual, I'm sometimes just parking outside the gym three or four hours since my last meal. This is not good. I'm hungry, and easy and healthy food isn't all that easy to get on the run. While I tend to keep a dry shaker bottle, ready with protein powder in my bag, protein shakes don't make me any less hungry or help boost my energy. I usually need some actual food.
I know, there are grocery stores everywhere, right? But try going to the grocery store and getting a serving of meat that's ready to eat. If you even can find a single serving of meat, it's expensive AND usually deli meat. What's worse is that it's usually more than I want to eat before a workout, so what to do with the leftovers? It's also hard to wash fruit and vegetables, so you're stuck with bananas (like) and oranges (not like).
Over time, when I'm stuck, I bite the bullet and go with a couple of tried and true options. The goals, filling enough to get me through an hour in the gym, not so much food that I actually feel full, protein, some carbs, and a decent amount of fat for energy.
Here are some typical pre-workout snacks for me.
A bunless cheeseburger and, maybe, a green tipped banana
Not ideal for many of you, but I happen to be a big fan of burger patties. Of course, I'd prefer grass fed beef, but a Double-Double, no spread, protein style is awesome. I also actually like McDonald's little McDouble, lettuce wrapped, and Burger King just puts the two patties and cheese on a little plate with a fork. Any way I get my bunless burger, it's just enough protein and just enough fat to carry me through a workout. If I plan to really work long and be all metabolic and shit, I'll grab a green tipped banana (I don't like the ripe ones) at the store, too, but most of the time, the burger is good enough.
The price on this option depends on the fast food place. In-N-Out's Double-Double is is around $3, but it's the best. McDonald's and BK will run you a buck each. Calories range from 220 to 350 (btw, the Double-Double spread is an Omega-6 bomb, so skip it). Add a banana from the store for another fifty cents, plus around 100 calories for a non-huge one.
Two plain or "light" yogurts
Most, but not all grocery stores have individual plain yogurts, which I prefer. They might have guar gum, pectin, or carrageenan, but whatever. It's not homemade. Second choice is a couple of "light" yogurts, which I secretly love, despite the cries of "artificial sweetener!"
Most of the time, you come in under $2 and 200 calories. Plenty of carbs if you like that for a workout, and enough protein to get you through until dinner, and the calories are held down by the notion that low fat yogurt means good health. Eat it anyway, and have fat at home...
Nuts and fruit
There's always nuts and fruit, and you can usually keep this in your car. Most fruit will do fine, even in the heat of a car for one day. A banana won't survive well, but an apple or pear? A plum or a peach actually tastes good when juicy and warm, like it's just off that tree in my backyard growing up.
I recommend buying nuts ahead of time and doling them out into baggies, since nuts on the run are more expensive AND come in larger sizes than you might want, like 1.75 servings per bag. Sure, you won't eat the whole bag... But when you have .75 servings of nuts staring back at you, you tend to eat it.
For those who say nuts aren't a complete protein, I say you're right. But, you have the rest of the day to fill the void with the rest of the aminos, AND if you ate earlier, and plan to eat again later, you're golden.
A medium apple and an ounce of nuts comes in around 275 calories, 16g Fat, 30g Carbs, 8g Fiber, 6g Protein.
Small plain Greek yogurt & a Larabar
There's a Whole Foods right across from 24 Hour Fitness, which is convenient but expensive. Whole Foods has decent food, but most of it is pricey.
I found a small Chobani yogurt, and since I'd heard so many good things about this brand, I picked it up. Too bad. It was really bad stuff. Very sour, with an unpleasant texture, but it had a good amount of protein for the price. I'll pick another brand, next time.
The Larabar was Ginger Snap flavor, which is my favorite. It's got some carbs, fiber, and fat, so I'm good to go. I'm glad I ate the yogurt first, so the awesomeness of the Larabar could get the nasty, sour taste off my mind.
Total price: $2.75
Total nutrition: 365 Calories, 17.5g Fat, 30g Carbs, 6g Fiber, 22g Protein
Most of the protein is dairy, most of the fat is nuts, and most of the carbs and fiber from the fruit, almonds and pecans, so all is good.
It's good in a pinch for me, what's good for you?