It’s not always convenient or easy to eat before a workout. Or perhaps sometimes you’re just not hungry (i.e. early AM workouts). However, if you’re planning on a long session of heavy lifting or cardio, it is crucial to fuel you’re body with the right nutrients to give you the energy and strength you need to perform. No matter what your workout plan is, the ideal time to eat is between 30 minutes to three hours before your workout. Below you’ll find some tips on what macros (carbs/protein) work best for different types of workouts as well as some food suggestions:
Your muscles use the glucose that comes from carbs to create fuel for your body. For shorter, HIIT type workouts you need more energy from carbs. For longer exercises, the way your body will process the glucose and use it for energy will depend on what kind of training you’re doing (i.e. long run vs weight training) and how long you’re planning to work out.
The key takeaway here is that carbs=energy. The best time to consume your carbs is before you exercise. Some simple carbs that are good pre-workout:
- Granola bar
- Fruit (i.e. banana)
- Oatmeal with fruit
- Greek yogurt (with or without fruit)
- Fruit and/or vegetable smoothie
- Rice cake with peanut butter
We often hear about the importance of consuming protein post-workout, but it doesn’t get as much shine on the pre-workout meals. Protein is especially if you are doing weight training because it increases muscle protein synthesis, but it also helps with muscle growth, recovery and strength. When consuming protein pre-workout be sure to go for something that is easily digestible and don’t consume too much (remember to eat a minimum of 30 minutes prior to exercise):
- Protein shake or bar
- Nuts (macadamia, almonds, peanuts, etc)
- Slice of turkey
- Hardboiled egg
- Lean protein (like chicken breast or salmon) with rice and steamed/roasted vegetables
Post-workout nutrition is even more critical than pre-workout nutrition because you need to replace the glycogen that you’ve used up during your exercise as well as help rebuild the proteins that were broken down during your workout.
The most important rule of post-workout eating is to do is SOON. If you don’t you’re at risk of low-blood sugar which will leave you feeling weak and tired while also inhibiting your body’s repair process.
The second most important rule is get a mix of complex carbs and protein while also choosing foods that are easy to digest so your body can absorb the nutrients faster.
You always want to keep your overall diet in mind when considering your pre and post workout meals and/or snacks. Planning out your meals and snacks each day will help you hit the macros your require for your personal diet and exercise needs.
What to eat after your workout:
- Fruits (pineapple, berries, banana, kiwi)
- Rice cakes
- Brown Rice
- Whole grain pasta
- Whole wheat bread
- Dark, leafy green vegetables
- Protein shake or smoothie
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Salmon/Cod/Halibut/Sea Bass
- Chicken Breast
- Pork tenderloin
- Sliced deli turkey
- Protein bar