“What should I eat before and after a workout?” We get asked this question by many fitness enthusiasts and also those starting out on their health and fitness journey. Before giving recommendations and strategies, we first would like to note that what you consume and how much you consume, depends on your goals, as well as, type, intensity, and length of your exercise. With that being said, there are some general guidelines we believe are beneficial to maximizing your exercise performance. In this article, we will break down fueling strategies for pre and post workout.
Let us first imagine our bodies as a car, or truck; for you truck lovers out there.
In order for your car to perform, you need to provide it with fuel (i.e. gas). If you are going down the street, you do not need as much gas as you would need if you were going across the state. Bringing this analogy back to our bodies. The “fuel” our bodies run on are carbohydrates. If you are participating in light to moderate exercise (walking or light weight training at the gym), your muscles do not need as much carbohydrates as compared to doing more intense exercises (long distance running, intense weight training). Proteins are also important to intake before a workout. The protein intake before a workout allows essential amino acids (muscle building blocks) to be readily available for muscle utilization during your workout. So remember, the harder your “engine” works, the more “fuel” you will need.
Now to address the other part of this equation: timing. When is the ideal time to consume fuel prior to exercising? This will depend on the individual, but a general rule of thumb is not to consume food immediately before you start exercising. The reason for this is because you are making your body do two things simultaneously. Your body has to a) digest and handle the food you just consumed and b) perform whatever exercise you are doing. This combination results in discomfort and overall poor performance. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating 1-3 hours prior to exercise. This gives the body time to digest the food to usable fuel. We recommend you experiment with what time works best for you. For example, if you eat 3 hours before a workout but you find yourself hungry right before, adjust to eating 2 hours before.
Banana with Greek yogurt
Oatmeal with fruit
Protein bar with a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein
With all the strategic marketing out there from the supplement companies, finding a post workout remedy that actually works seems harder and harder to find. That is why we are going to keep it simple by using the 3 R’s: Refuel, Repair, Replace.
Refuel depleted energy storage with Carbohydrates
Repair muscle tissue with Protein
Replace lost water and electrolytes with Fluids
It is recommended to consume your recovery food in timely manner post-workout, the sooner the better. Whether that is a shake or a meal/snack, your muscles will absorb more of those key nutrients as close to the workout as possible, allowing for optimal recovery. It is recommended to consume a meal or shake 10-15 minutes post-workout, with a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 3:1. Note: Refrain from consuming foods high in fat and fiber immediately post workout. Fat and fiber slow down digestion, inhibiting your muscles from getting that quick recovery they need.
Post-workout shake (made with low-fat or fat-free milk)
Low-fat chocolate milk
Turkey sandwich or wrap
Egg scramble with toast
Let us know what fuel choices you make. Tag us on Instagram @nutrition4performance and use the hashtag #NFPFuelChoices. Also, download our fueling strategy infographic to help you with your pre and post-workout fueling.