WHAT YOU SHOULD EAT FOR CARDIO VS. STRENGTH WORKOUTS

The Paleolithic diet, the seven-day color diet, Stone Age Crossfit… modern nutrition and exercise is ripe with comic satire. As ripe as the banana you should have every morning with breakfast, in fact. What’s Stone Age Crossfit anyway –a workout in which you push an ice aged boulder atop a Wooly Mammoth? The next thing you know a bleach-tanned diet book author is going to be advocating a “No Food” diet. No thank you.

That’s the problem with nutrition and exercise. They have more fads than the fashion industry. If you want an all-around healthy diet for an exercise routine, one that balances nutrients and maximizes workout potential, don’t ask the guy at the gym in the 80’s half-shirt who’s mixing and matching the ingredients of his protein shake like an alchemist. Keep it simple. Keep it honest. And stay fad free.

What you should eat for a cardio workout is different from what you should eat for a strength workout. Here, let’s break it down. Satire free.

BASIC CARDIO WORKOUT NUTRITION

It’s time to carb up. According to most studies, carbohydrates should constitute 75 to 100% of your pre-workout meal. You need energy to power through an intense cardio workout. You want to be able to toss thunderbolts like Zeus. Carbohydrates are metabolized faster than Usain Bolt runs a 100-meter, so a pre-workout meal should be eaten 30 to 60 minutes before you hit the gym.

The fuel factor, however, depends on your body. Some people eat a full meal before a cardio workout, and others boost their blood sugar with small snacks. A good, well-balanced cardio workout meal might include chicken, brown rice, spinach, and an apple. On the other hand, small snacks such as smoothies, egg whites, Greek yogurt with fruit, and whole grain cereal with raisins and walnuts will boost your blood sugar levels.

BASIC STRENGTH WORKOUT NUTRITION

Protein. That’s the name of the game if you want to fuel a strength-based workout and build lean muscle. Protein helps jumpstart recovery. It’s used by muscles to repair and built lean tissue.

Eat your pre-workout meal 1 to 2 hours before you hit the gym. The amount of protein you need is determined by your body weight, gender, and the length and intensity of your workout. Good sources of protein include beef, poultry, fish, and dairy. At the same time, don’t skip the carbs. You still need some fast-acting energy. A strength training meal should be 25% protein and 75% carbohydrates.

POST WORKOUT AND RECOVERY

Don’t forget about recovery. It doesn’t matter if you’re eating for a cardio workout or strength training, post workout meals are important. Whether your musculature is like a sleek Jaguar or ripped like a Pontiac GTO, you have to fuel it with the right stuff.

Proteins and carbohydrates are needed after any type of workout to replenish and repair the body. Don’t skimp on hydration, either. And reload the electrolytes. Coconut water is a good substitute for sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade, which contain Willy Wonka amounts of sugar.

Eat. Workout. Sleep. Repeat. Keep it simple.

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