Eat The Best Foods Before and After Your Workout for Success


You need to provide your body with proper nutrition before and after your workout. Your pre-workout meal provides the energy you need to get through a tough training session. The post-workout meal provides your cells with the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they need to repair and recover from a strenuous workout. You may have many questions including what you should eat, how much should you eat and when should you eat it. The best time to eat before your workout is about thirty minutes before you start to exercise. Try to eat within two hours after your workout so that your body will have the nutrients it needs to repair and recover. Fuel your body before and after your workout to get the most from your exercise program. Remember to always stay hydrated by drinking water before, during and after your workout.

Carb-Up Before Your Workout
Carbohydrates are the fuel your body needs before and after your workout. The best carbohydrates to eat for sustained energy consist of complex carbs, such as whole grains and starchy vegetables including potatoes and yams. Whole grain bagels, oatmeal, Greek yogurt, and brown rice are excellent sources of long-lasting carbohydrates that will provide the energy you need to make it through a hardcore workout. Beans and rice contain protein and complex carbohydrates that will burn slowly during your training routine. Whole wheat breads, eggs and cheese are also an excellent source of energy-providing carbohydrates. Try to schedule your workout so that you have eaten at least two high carbohydrate meals before you start exercising. Eating two meals with the last no later than two hours before your workout will provide you with the energy you need and help maintain your blood sugar levels.

Pre-Workout Snacks
nutrition-before-after-workout-bananaIf eating a full meal is not possible, or if you just want an extra boost of energy and nutrients before your workout, try some nutritious snacks before your workout to provide your body with fuel. Fresh fruit, such as bananas, apples, strawberries or blueberries alone or with low-fat Greek yogurt can provide natural sugars for energy. A whole grain bagel with some peanut butter will provide a boost of carbohydrates and some extra protein. Energy bars made with whole grains and natural sugars, such as honey, are also a good choice for a quick pre-workout snack. As noted, always hydrate your body with adequate amounts of water.

Protein for Muscle Building
Your body needs carbohydrates for energy, but your muscles need protein. Protein before a workout can also help increase your resting energy levels, boosting your metabolism so that you burn more calories even when resting. During exercise, you may exhaust your body’s store of carbohydrates for energy, especially if you are doing a high intensity workout. Your body can switch to using protein and amino acids for energy in a process called gluconeogenesis. Your body will take protein from muscle tissue if you don’t have some extra protein in your blood stream. So make sure to eat some protein along with your carbohydrates about an hour before an intense workout. A protein shake, lean meats (chicken, turkey), eggs, fish and legumes are good sources of protein. A great pre-workout shake is 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder with 1 frozen banana. Blend it up with a few ice cubes for a quick protein packed smoothie before you hit the gym!

Post-Workout Snacks
nutrition-before-after-workout-nutsYour blood sugar may be low after a vigorous workout. If you are dieting and exercising, your glycogen stores may become depleted. You need to restore your blood sugar by eating some carbohydrates that will digest quickly and get glycogen back into your system. Yogurt with fresh fruit, peanut butter on whole wheat bread, cheese and whole grain crackers and dried fruits or nuts are good choices and excellent sources of nutrients. Always hydrate your body with lots of water after your workout. You may also choose a sports drink that replaces lost salt, minerals and restores electrolyte balance. Dried fruits and nuts are easy to pack in your gym bag or back pack. You can snack on them before and after your workout. If you need a little boost during your workout, try a cup of your favorite sports drink that contains minerals and electrolytes.

Post-Workout Nutrition to Repair and Recover
After a workout your body needs to recover and repair all of the micro tears in the muscle you trained. Lean proteins and carbohydrates provide the nutrition necessary to help your muscles to repair and grow. Your post-workout meal should include a protein, such as meat or beans, a starch, and vegetables or a salad. Skinless chicken breast and brown rice or lean meat, sweet potatoes and steamed vegetables contain protein and carbohydrates to help your body heal and recover. Eggs contain lots of protein to help encourage muscle growth. Add some vegetables to eggs and make a delicious omelet. Try some avocado with your omelet for some healthy fats. Avocados contain fiber and help your body absorb fat soluble nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E and vitamin K. Fish, especially wild salmon, contains lots of protein and important peptides that can help reduce inflammation. Avoid overcooked vegetables, because it destroys the nutrients. Steam vegetables to help preserve nutrients as well as flavor or eat them raw. By eating the right foods before and after your workouts you will be able to optimally fuel your body and reach your fitness goals faster!

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About Author

Robin Reichert

I'm an AFPA certified personal trainer, AFPA certified nutrition consultant, NASM certified youth exercise specialist, online fitness coach and freelance writer specializing in health and fitness. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health. I'm also an active member of the world's largest association for fitness and wellness professionals. See my profile page for more information!

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