I was asked a really interesting question the other day while working out with a friend. See, in our workout-chatting, he asked me about my workouts for the past several days, and marveled at my claim to have had 3 workouts within 24 hours, and still able to put together a good, strong workout! He asked me: “How do you fuel your workouts? What do you eat before and after your workouts to prepare for that kind of an output?” So, today’s post is going to answer that question.
I’ll get to my macronutrient breakdown in a minute. First, let me tell you why that question is important. I had had a rough 3 days! They were great – but they were rough! Here’s the breakdown: On Sunday, just for the heck of it, I ran 14 miles. It wasn’t planned. I just headed out for a run, and each time I came to a fork in the road, I chose the one which would lengthen my run. I got home after my unplanned long-run and mapped out the distance I had run, learning to my delight that it had been just a bit over 14 miles! So Monday I took it easy, letting my body recover. I had every intention of running on Tuesday morning, but I stayed up late on Monday night and slept late on Tuesday, missing my run.
Tuesday night I came home with that familiar “itch” to go for a run, so I did! I pumped out a 6-mile run with a really hard sprint workout in the middle, and came back beaming with excitement from my workout! I felt great, and that leg-“itch” was completely taken care of! So on Wednesday morning when I woke up, I figured I would do a quick “recovery run” to keep my legs nice and loose, and to get back in the morning run pattern. I felt good! A little bit of soreness, which was expected, but otherwise comfortable. Then, Wednesday night I got a text from a friend asking me if I wanted to join him on a workout. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself, doing a thorough mental systems-check to see if it was even feasible. “Sure!” I texted back, after mentally confirming that I would be fine.
Where is all this headed? Well, let me tell you: None of those three workouts was planned. So, since this blog is all about food, let me catch you up a bit on how I feed myself; fueling my capacity to output 3 workouts in 24 hours, and still be in good shape.
How do I fuel the fire?
My daily macronutrient intake is almost identical, regardless of the season, my fitness goals, or what social situations are going on. An average of once a month, I fast for a day or so. Similarly, about twice per month I have a high-carb day, ingesting perhaps 200 or more grams of carbs. These are usually fruit, dried fruit, or some other Paleo appropriate form of carbohydrate. Other than that, I eat approximately 70-80 grams of carbs per day, every day. Here’s the big deal: I did not eat any differently on Tuesday, or Wednesday, than I do almost every other day. I can give you a meal-by-meal breakdown, if you like. I meticulous about my eating, and don’t mind sharing it. But my guess is that you all don’t really want to know exactly what I eat. You want to know what I do to make the workouts work, right?
Managing my macronutrient intake.
Here’s the big question: If I know that I’ll eat a certain amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats throughout the day, will choosing when I eat those make any difference in my output potential? Well, research suggests that the answer to that question is “Yes.” According to the current research available, carbs are processed and absorbed faster immediately following a workout. Similarly, current research supports eating protein immediately following a workout.
Now don’t go grabbing a Power Bar just yet! The body, as I have come to understand, responds best to what I like to call a “Whole Meal” – that is, if you’re going to have protein, eat a steak. If you’re going to have some carbs, eat an apple. And if you want to consume both protein and carbohydrates, have a meal. A real meal. Eat a steak and a salad. Or, like I’ve done in the past, follow one of these “Post Workout Meals” that I use:
- Steak, Sweet Potato Fries, Avocado
- Post Workout Hot & Cold Salad
- And one of my finest Post-Workout meals: “Apple Pie” Chicken
As you can see, I go for the whole-meal plan. It doesn’t have to be a big meal, mind you. But if I’m going to eat, I’m going to give my body the full spectrum of what it needs: the obvious macronutrients consisting of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, and I will also make sure, by using whole-food meals, that I am giving it a battery of the vitamins and minerals that it needs too!
How did this help me do 3 hard workouts in 24 hours?
Well, the first of the workouts was right before dinner, so I cooked a “Post Workout Meal” while I was working out, and ate when I returned. It was delicious, nutritious, and precisely what my body needed at that time! The following day, I worked out right before breakfast, so, again, I had a meal waiting for me! In both cases, recovery was maximized by having the full spectrum of nutrients, vitamins and minerals all completely available as the body needed them! And that made the difference between having to say “No”, or actually getting to say “Yes!” when my friend called me for my third workout in 24 hours! Would I do anything differently? Absolutely not.