According to the CDC, adults need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week (brisk walking counts, so don’t fret), along with two days of muscle-strengthening activities.
This seems pretty straight forward, but there are other questions that come into play. For example, how much should you eat when you workout, and when is the best time to do so?
It’s important to remember that caloric intake is different for everyone, depending on factors like gender, height, age, and activity level.
But, in general, the National Institutes of Health recommends that people who exercise get 45% to 65% of their daily calories from carbohydrates, 25% to 35% from fat, and 10% to 35% come from protein. And this caloric intake shouldn’t change very much, whether you are working out or not.
“If people are training at 30 or 40 or 50 minutes a day, they don’t need extra carbohydrates, they don’t need sports drinks, they don’t need any of that stuff. People have way over complicated this,” Dr. Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic told LiveScience.
According to him, only people who burn more than 500 calories an hour need to boost their caloric intake. And this isn’t most of us. (For example, a person weighing 154 pounds has to run continuously for at least an hour to burn over 500 calories.) And overcompensating with carbohydrates and calories can lead to weight gain.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t eat before going to the gym, especially if you were going to do so anyway. In other words, if you want to eat lunch before hitting the gym, that is perfectly ok — just don’t eat more than you normally would. In fact, Medical Daily recommends that you eat a nice balance of carbohydrates and protein about 30 to 60 minutes before you dive into your workout. You can even eat right before going to the gym, since the old myth that you can’t exercise until at least 30 minutes after eating has no factual basis.
Just as you shouldn’t overcompensate, you likewise shouldn’t skip a meal before or after a work-out either. Muscle-building hormones, like testosterone, are highest in the bloodstream 15 to 30 minutes after a workout, so this is actually a good time to refuel your body by having a quick snack. The best post-workout snacks are bananas, avocados or foods with protein and quickly-digestible sugars.
So the next time you head to the gym, keep in mind the simple principle that it is always best to combine eating healthy portions with exercise to meet your fitness goals.
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