Eating Before & After Workout
Not only fuelling your body with proper nutrition before a workout is important, but re-fuelling it after you finish your exercise session is equally important so as to provide your body with what it needs to recover from a gruelling workout session and gain bigger, stronger muscles.
If you know what to eat before and after working out, you can use this knowledge to reap the full benefits of all your hard work at the gym.
Let me clear one thing, I’m not going to talk regarding pre or after workout supplements, rather I would be telling you about real, delicious meals and snacks.
As a Certified Nutrition Specialist & Certified Personal Fitness Coach, here are my top tips about eating right both, before and after your workout.
What To Eat Before A Workout?
I advise my clients to eat before exercise in order to maximize performance & recovery, and get the most out of the workouts.
While carbohydrates are needed to fuel short and high-intensity exercises, the fat helps fuel your body for longer exercise sessions. On the other hand not eating enough right food before a workout can make you feel lightheaded, dizzy or nauseated. And even if none of these happens, skipping pre-workout food can adversely impact your performance and cut down your gains.
Carbohydrates = Energy for workout. When you eat carbs, they are broken down into glucose; glucose enters muscle cells, and provides them energy so that they can workout at their maximum capacity. The muscles store glucose in glycogen form, and use these reserves when you workout, especially for short- and high-intensity exercises. Eating carbohydrates before we workout ensures that the glucose is available to replenish the glycogen stores. As a general rule human body tends to prefer carbs as a source of quick fuel because they digest quickly.
If you’re short of glucose during your strenuous workout session, you’ll be likely to feel lethargic, weak, tired and tempted to quit.
Here is a list of the foods that can provide you with good carbs.
(a) A piece of fruit
(c) Greek yogurt (this also has protein)
(d) A piece of toast
(e) A rice cake
(g) Dried fruit
(h) A granola bar
Along with carbohydrates, it’s a good idea to eat a little bit of protein before workout – particularly if you are going to do strength training. When you do weight training exercises, small tears are created in your muscle fibers. When you rest, your body mends those micro-tears, and in the process your muscles also build up stronger & bigger than they were before – and your body requires protein to do it. But beware this doesn’t mean that you eat a burger before workout. Rather, choose easily digestible sources of protein, and don’t eat too much, so as you do not get an upset stomach during the workout session.
Here is an example list of the foods that can provide you with good protein.
(a) Greek yogurt
(b) A slice of turkey
(c) A hardboiled egg
(d) Milk or soy milk
Timing Is Very Important
The ideal time to eat before workout varies between 30 minutes (for snack) to 3 hours (for full balanced meal) before your workout. This will ensure that you’re not still digesting when you begin workout, and you haven’t expended all those helpful calories yet. Having said that, you can calibrate this timing window as per your own metabolism rate. You will have to experiment to find out which timeframe suits your body the best.
If you’re working out first thing in the morning, you might not get enough time to eat a whole meal before you begin work. A small snack or mini-breakfast should work fine.
My favorite pre-workout snack is a banana &/or peanut butter with whole-wheat toast (carbs packed with some protein) 30 to 45 before minutes before I do workouts early morning, and I sip whey protein during the 90 minutes workout. For those who workout later in the day, I suggest having a snack thirty minutes to an hour before your workout, or working out two-three hours after a well-balanced meal.
Ideally you should get your body hydrated before even you think about working up a sweat, and definitely drink water before, during, and after workout. Why? Because low dehydration definitely means poor performance, and can even cause muscle cramps & spasms.
I always recommend my clients to sip on water all through the workout session (and at least 1 cup of water 10 to 15 minutes before workout, and after) than to drink a lot at once. Consider drinking at least 1 cup of water for every 15-25 minutes of strenuous physical activity, particularly if you are sweating heavily or are training in a heated environment.
Again, this may take a bit of experimentation until you find what is good for your body.
Here are some pre-workout snack and meal ideas I recommend:
(i) Snack: A smoothie with one cup of fruit & two cups of vegetables (drink half before the workout and half after).
You can try this recipe:
(a) One scoop chocolate whey protein.
(b) One banana
(c) One large handful spinach
(d) 1 tablespoon peanut butter
(e) 1 cup water or milk
(f) Ice, if you like
And of course, blend all the ingredients together.
(ii) Snack: An apple or pear with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
(iii) Snack: one cup Greek yogurt with handful of nuts & I cup of berries. This fruit portrait provides protein from the yogurt, along with healthy fats, and plenty of vitamins, minerals, & antioxidants.
(iv) Snack: Mixed nuts with dried fruit.
(v) Snack: A granola bar
(vi) Snack: Rice cakes topped with nut butter
(vii) Meal: Oatmeal mixed with fruit & peanut butter
(viii) Meal: Brown rice with baked salmon and roasted veggies
What To Eat After A Workout
Eating after a workout is very important mainly due to two reasons. One to replenish the glycogen (think of the calories used up) that has been expended during workout. Second, your body needs protein for recovery, repairing and building muscles.
Another reason to eat food after workout is to replenish electrolytes. They are the minerals, which are lost when we sweat during workout. Our neurons need them in order to work properly, and food contains them.
After workout if we don’t eat, we can end up fatigued, battling low blood sugar. This leads to inefficient body’s repair system, making harder for us to reach our fitness goals.
Eat Something Soon After Workout
Remember to eat a snack right away after your workout, if you have worked out real hard and a full meal with in a few hours later.
Replenish With Carbs And Protein
During workout we exhaust glycogen stores and tear muscle fibers. This means, our post-workout meal should be high in complex carbs (we don’t need them to break down as fast as we need before workout) and packed with healthy protein.
Some Examples Of Complex Carbs
(b) Whole wheat bread
(c) Brown rice
Some Examples Of Healthy Proteins:
I have already covered hydration point above. I just want to reemphasize here: “Replenishing the fluids lost while sweating during workout; “as soon as you can” is even more important than eating right away.”
Here are some after-workout snack and meal ideas I recommend
(a) Snack: One cup of chocolate milk
(b) Snack: One slice of whole-wheat toast with ½ sliced banana & one tablespoon of peanut butter
(c) Snack: One to two boiled eggs with a slice of whole wheat toast
(d) Meal: A 7-inch whole-wheat pita stuffed with grilled veggies and 2 tablespoons hummus
(e) Meal: Rice crackers, veggies, and hummus
(f) Meal: Veggie omelet with avocado and a half-cup of roasted potatoes
(g) Meal:Four ounces of steamed trout with sautéed spinach & a baked sweet potato
(h) Meal: Ever green, a protein-rich green smoothie
And remember, these are only guidelines
Everyone’s body is different and has it’s own specific needs & preferences. So you need to listen how your body is responding during & after training and find out what works best for you. Happy training!