What Should I Eat Before & After My Workouts?
To go full throttle at the gym or wherever our fitness adventures may take us, we need to eat right.
But did you know that the definition of “right” changes depending on the nature of the activity?
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We’ve consulted with top nutritionists and trainers for their recommendations on what you should eat (and when) to make the most of your workouts, and they all agreed on one thing…you absolutely must drink water! Also, most experts agree that if your workout is longer or more intense, you’re going to need different types and amounts of food.
No Skipping Meals!
Skipping meals altogether is a big mistake: People fall into the trap of not eating before or after, but then their workouts will start to take away from carbohydrate and muscle resources that they already have.
The Food Depends On The Workout
Each genre of workout demands a different meal before and afterward to help maintain energy, but also balance the body for maximum results:
Before: Though yoga can be difficult, it’s generally lower impact than certain other types of exercise. It’s also good for your digestion, so there’s less concern about upsetting the stomach. For a morning yoga class, for example, you want to eat fibrous foods like a whole grain cereal perhaps or yogurt – Greek or traditional – with fresh berries. Some protein will help build muscles and healthy fats are great, but also that fiber content will further promote digestion and won’t weigh you down. Something heavier will take more time for your body to breakdown and digest, so it won’t be as fuel efficient.
For Example: Fortified cereal and almond milk.
After: You want to replenish after a workout, so try a sports energy drink. But then – again if it’s morning – you’ll want to have a healthy, simple snack that won’t make you nauseous like an egg white burrito, while your body is still burning calories. It will help build more muscle.
For Example: A protein drink and a breakfast burrito.
Before: Before you go bouncing around, you don’t want to eat food that might make you nauseous as your stomach is jostled. Because of the physicality of the exercise, you’ll need a little more energy, but you don’t want a heavy meal. Eat a healthy snack beforehand and your actual breakfast, lunch or dinner afterward. Again, high-fiber foods break down well, so eat a banana, trail mix or an energy bar. You mainly need energy and you’re going to get that from healthier carbs, fruits, grains and good fats like nuts.
For Example: A high-protein/high-fiber bar.
After: After your workout, choose a salad with mixed greens and some lean protein like chicken breast or grilled fish. Stay away from bottled dressings or anything that has high fat content. You’ve worked your metabolism up and your muscles are hungry, so it’s going to absorb that protein right into your muscles. If you eat high fat or processed foods, your body won’t know what to do with them and all that wonderful calorie-burning metabolism you’ve built up, will actually get slowed back down.
For Example: A lean turkey sandwich or burger
Before: Eat 2 to 3 ounces of protein before you work out and, again, stay away from heavy meals. Your muscles are going to be working extra hard, so they need that type of food to sustain you throughout the workout. Your body is depleting those resources, so you need to introduce them back in. Portion control is also really important because, if you consume too much, your muscles will focus on digesting that food instead of the workout.
For Example: A turkey breast.
After: After a good strength training workout, eat 4 to 6 ounces of protein and healthy grains like brown or Basmati rice. Stay away from heavier starches like potatoes and reward your body with tasty pieces of grilled fish or shrimp and vegetables. For a balanced meal, it’s very important to include high fiber veggies like with your protein.
For Example: A piece of salmon with kale or a grilled shrimp salad.
You might actually find that eating more often in the ways listed above will help you to maintain your energy and a healthier body not just during your workouts, but during your entire day!