Time to rethink that packet of biscuits you nibble on
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Whether you’re a fitness buff or walk regularly and do some basic exercises to keep fit, there’s a common dilemma that plagues you. You need a snack before your workout to help you power through the routine, and you need a snack after burning a whole lot of calories to keep you going through the rest of the day. Just because you are famished, don’t take the easy way out and munch on biscuits or depend on fast food (stay away from that cheeseburger, please) because this will just negate your calorie burn. We spoke to nutritionist Prachi Sanghavi and celebrity fitness trainer Shalini Bhargava to solve your dilemma. Here’s an expert-vetted meal plan that will help you get the most out of your workout.

PRE-WORKOUT SNACKS
Prachi Sanghavi, nutritionist and co-founder of the diet app MyDIETist App says that your diet will depend on your fitness goal: Are you looking to lose weight, are you looking to bulk up, or are you looking to maintain your physique?

The thumb rule is to “befriend snacks that are high on complex carbs (like banana and oats) and protein (eggs, whey protein supplement) to keep the motor humming. Carbs are slowly absorbed by our body. But give us energy for a prolonged period of time,” says Prachi. It’s crucial to not work out on an empty stomach, else your body will breakdown your muscles for energy.

Shalini Bhargava, fitness expert and director at Mumbai-based JG Fitness Centre, says, “The food you eat directly affects the way your body performs, and an under-performing body won’t burn as many calories or build as much muscle as one that is perfectly fueled. The timing is key—even the perfect workout snack can leave you flat if you eat it too early or weigh you down if you eat it too late.” If it’s only a snack, you should eat about 20-30 minutes before your workout, but if it’s a full meal, make sure you consume it at least 90 minutes prior to hitting the fitness road, followed by a glass of whey protein in water.

Expert tip: The amount of carbs and protein you should eat depends on how much time will elapse before your workout. Irrespective of the volume of food, 5 grams of carbs will provide 1 gram of essential amino acids and about 1.6 grams of protein will provide 1 gram of essential amino acids. Consuming these nutrients before your workout allows your body to take advantage of workout-induced increased blood flow to establish the amino acids in your muscles while boosting blood sugar for steady energy.
--Shalini Bhargava

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Low-intensity workout: If you are a beginner, then a glass of milk and an apple should give you enough energy. You could also eat a bowl of oats (carbs) with milk (calcium) for energy which will not accumulate as fat. Oats are full of fibre, thereby gradually releasing carbohydrates into your bloodstream. This steady stream of nutrition keeps your energy levels consistent during your workout. Oats also contain B vitamins, which help convert carbohydrates into energy. You could also make an oatmeal upma, mixed with vegetables like carrots, onions, beans and pepper, topped with a dash of lime. Vitamin C-rich red peppers and lemon help prevent some of the exercise-induced oxidative stress to your muscles that occurs during workout sessions. Adding fruit to your bowl of oatmeal will help increase the fluid content of your pre-workout snack, keeping you hydrated.

Medium-intensity workout: Whip up a fluffy omelette with three egg whites and one yolk for optimum nutrition. Garnish with veggies for an extra nutrition boost or a few slices of avocado for fibre and good fats. A banana is a good source of digestible carbohydrates and potassium, which aids in maintaining nerve and muscle function. Luckily our body doesn’t store potassium for very long, so a banana before a workout will help keep nutrient levels high with a serving of yogurt or a scoop of whey protein. Fruit and yogurt is also ideal because fruits are high in carbohydrates and Greek yogurt is packed with high-quality protein.

High-intensity workout: “Bananas, potatoes, yogurt, fruits, juices and dextrose would be ideal because they don’t take too long to digest. These fast acting carbs will increase your glycemic index and thereby open a window for the subsequent protein to be absorbed quicker. In addition, these carbs will help give your muscles the energy they need for your workout,” advises Prachi. Two multigrain rotis with sautéed paneer, or a brown or whole-wheat bread paneer/tofu/chicken/turkey sandwich will keep you kicking. If you want to eat an omelette, stick to the ratio of either 5:1 or 7:2 for white and yolk.

POST-WORKOUT SNACKS
After you sweat it out during your workout, you need to re-fuel with a nutrition-rich meal to begin the recovery process of muscle wear-and-tear, support muscle growth and support our hormones and metabolism. Glycogen is stored primarily in your muscles and is the main source of fuel. Prachi explains that during a workout, there’s a breakdown of muscles, hence you need to snack on food that has a high glycemic index because this repairs your muscles straightaway, as it is fast-absorbed by your body. Don’t waste any time after your workout to snack on a banana. “Plus it’s important to have a full snack within 5 to 30 minutes of your workout,” adds Shalini.

Low-intensity workout: A tuna (lean protein) sandwich along with a salad tossed with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, is a good response to post-workout recovery. Even a fruit salad of bananas and mangoes can be munched on. Another healthy post-workout snack is sprouts along with two bowls of yogurt or a glass of buttermilk and apples dipped in peanut or almond butter.

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Medium-intensity workout: A satisfying one-bowl meal after such a workout would be instant oats enriched with seasonal veggies, or barley/quinoa cooked with bell peppers, garlic, cucumber, tofu, tomatoes and parsley. Multigrain rotis with fresh, seasonal vegetables or a tofu sandwich are good recovery options, too.

High-intensity workout: High-protein sources like eggs, fish, chicken, paneer and soyabean should be consumed after a high-intensity workout. For maximum health benefit, grill or steam your food. Chicken grilled with vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes and potatoes are protein-rich, as is steamed salmon fish with a salad, with salmon having the added bonus of bioactive peptides that help reduce inflammation, regulate your insulin levels and support your joints.

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