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How To Fuel Your Bar Method Workout
If you’ve been a Bar Method devotee for several months or even years, chances are you’re familiar with the benefits of a Bar Method workout because you’ve experienced them yourself: long, lean sculpted muscles, improved posture and an unparalleled inner strength. But like any workout, exercise is only part of the equation. For even better results, pair your Bar Method workout with a commitment to a whole foods diet and healthy lifestyle.
There’s a lot of nutrition information available and plenty of fad diets from which to choose, but an overwhelming majority of people who lose weight on a diet – 98 percent – gain it back. Diets are attractive because they offer guidelines for how to eat in the absence of not knowing – or trusting – yourself to know what to do. However, diets, by nature, are based on deprivation. This might work as a short-term strategy but it’s not a long-term solution. A more sustainable approach to nutrition and healthy eating is a system of small dietary and lifestyle changes that add up over time to create permanent results.
Incorporate these three dietary changes for permanent results
Focus on Whole Foods
Whole foods are the backbone of good nutrition. The women I work with in my Health Coaching practice are often so accustomed to monitoring everything they eat that they’re in the habit of grazing, even on whole foods. Quite simply, they’re not eating enough, but when you choose whole foods, you can eat more food.
Food is fuel. Think about building your plate with the nutrient-dense foods that will power you through a Bar Method workout and beyond. By eating this way you train your body to efficiently use the calories and nutrients from these foods to energize your daily activities.
Vegetables, especially leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards and Swiss chard, for example, and even cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts should comprise half of your plate. These foods are naturally energizing and detoxifying because of their nutrient-rich profile. With high levels of calcium, magnesium, iron, fiber, Vitamins A,C,K and E, folic acid, zinc and more these foods purify your blood and strengthen your immune system. Eat them often, ideally at every meal.
Lean animal proteins like chicken, fish, pork and beef and plant-based proteins such as tempeh or tofu are the building blocks of strong muscles. After you’ve pulsed your way to the signature Bar Method shake, a sign that your muscle fibers have broken down, you need the amino acids in protein to re-build your muscles. Protein repairs those microscopic muscle tears to grow your muscles even stronger than they were before.
Fiber-rich whole grains like brown rice, oats, quinoa, millet, couscous, and barley as well as legumes like black beans, chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans (also great plant-based protein sources) and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash to name a few are an important part of any healthy diet. Low-carb diets are getting a lot of attention right now, but your body needs carbs especially if you’re active. Focus on the slow-burning carbs mentioned here that deliver steady energy throughout the day and won’t spike your blood sugar. Over time, a low-carb diet will slow your metabolism, spike your stress hormones and impair your ability to build muscle.
Healthy fats found in nuts and seeds, avocadoes, eggs, organic full-fat dairy and seafood like wild salmon or sardines are an important source of energy but they also help your body absorb and assimilate the nutrients from your food. You need fat to burn fat so don’t skip this important macronutrient.
Eating more nutrient-packed whole – or high energy – foods like these, will help diminish and phase out cravings for less nutrient-dense – or low energy – foods that threaten to throw your healthy eating habits off track.
Put It Into Action: If on family pizza night you normally find yourself 4 slices deep, try adding a large helping of a leafy green salad to your plate. By filling up on greens first, you’ll feel more satisfied and have less room for pizza, which will allow you to comfortably enjoy a slice or two without the guilt – or the bloat!
Time Your Meals Right
To stay energized up to and during your workout, time your meals accordingly. Eating too soon before your workout will relegate energy to digesting your food making you feel sluggish and maybe even nauseous during your workout. However, timing your meals right will give you the extra push you need to perform at your best. This is where carbs come in!
Carbohydrates break down into glucose (stored in your muscles as glycogen) to fuel your daily activities. When you put your muscles to work during exercise, they dip into their glycogen stores to power through your workout. Some people prefer to workout in a fasted state such as before breakfast on an empty stomach. In this case, your body will pull from its fat stores for energy. Whether you choose to eat before exercise or not is a matter of personal preference.
If you choose to eat before exercise, aim to eat anywhere from three hours and no less than 30 minutes before your workout. If you eat several hours in advance, you can have a larger, balanced meal of slow-burning carbs, lean protein and healthy fat.
However, if you’re eating closer to your workout, opt for a lighter, carb-friendly snack instead which will digest easily and also give you a burst of energy. Avoid difficult-to-digest, heavier proteins and fats.
To maximize the results of your workout, eat within 30 minutes post-workout. If you can’t have a larger meal within that timeframe, then choose a small snack and eat a full meal a few hours later. Your post-workout meal should be protein-rich to help rebuild and strengthen your muscles. Of course, always supplement your workouts and healthy eating habits with plenty of water.
Put It Into Action: Eating three hours before your workout? Choose a balanced meal of carbs, fat and protein. For example, a salad with grilled chicken, avocado and diced sweet potato or baked salmon with quinoa and steamed vegetables. Eating 30 minutes before a workout? Choose a light, carb-focused snack like a rice cake or piece of fruit with a light spread of nut butter, Greek yogurt with berries, a small portion of a smoothie or a cup of oatmeal with berries. After your workout, load up on a protein-rich meal or snack. Try a veggie omelet with a big side of arugula and steamed sweet potatoes. Protein shakes or chia pudding are a good on-the-go snack option if you can’t eat a larger meal right after your workout.
Manage Your Hunger
If you’ve ever eaten a meal or snack and then felt ravenous shortly after, you’re not alone and it’s not you! Eating the right combinations of food can determine how satiated you’ll feel. That is, if you eat a piece of fruit hoping it will hold you over until dinner, you’ll likely end up feeling hungry and reaching for another snack. Likewise, if you eat a salad with only vegetables and avocado for lunch, you may be counting the minutes until your next meal.
To keep hunger levels in check throughout the day, reach for meals and snacks that contain fiber, fat and protein. This winning three-part combination is an easy way to ensure that what you eat is not only satisfying, but also balances blood sugar and – in the long run – hormone levels too.
Put It Into Action: Pair a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts, nut butter or a slice of full fat cheese. The fat and protein in the nuts or cheese help slow the absorption of fructose into the bloodstream to deliver a steady stream of energy rather than spiking your blood sugar. Add protein like grilled chicken or salmon to make any salad more satiating.
Think of nutrition like your Bar Method class: There are many different ways to eat, but not all of them work for everyone. The person working next to you in kickstand curl may need one riser and two small mats while you prefer no riser and one small mat. You both still get the benefit of the exercise but with a different configuration of props. Likewise, some days your body has different needs. On Monday you may take the challenge option to go deeper into thigh work or even a stretch, but by Friday, you’re body might not be feeling it so you hold off.
You can apply these same concepts from The Bar Method classroom to nutrition. Some people need more carbs, others more protein. Some people do well on a vegan diet while others need meat. Learn to listen to your body and get curious about how you uniquely respond to different foods. Know that what works for your best friend or your sister may not be best for you and that’s ok!
About the Author
Marissa Vicario McFarland is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Bar Method Instructor in New York City. Her group nutrition program, Bar Fuel: How to Eat for Energy and Focus at The Bar, starts Monday, February 11. The 4-week online program is exclusively for Bar Method clients and offers the support and accountability you need to transform your body and power your workout. Click here to learn more and join!