When you work out, you put added strain on your body and expend more energy than usual, so you need to fuel up before you hit the gym and replenish the nutrients you used up when your workout is over. It’s not enough to just consume calories, as the food you eat can directly impact the effectiveness of your workout. Devouring a plate of greasy fries ahead of a gym trip can leave you feeling sluggish and reduce the impact of your efforts, while a piece of toast with peanut butter can provide you with energy.
When you’re gearing up for a workout, whether you’re planning to do some strength training or go for a run, you should fuel your body with foods that will aid your efforts. It’s best to have something in your stomach, but if you’re planning on just a light jog or a brisk stroll, you may not need to eat as hearty of a meal as if you’re going to a kick-boxing class. According to WebMD, certain foods are sources of quick energy, making them ideal to eat before heading to the gym. Protein and carbs are the two key ingredients you should look for in a pre-workout snack.
“Simple carbs burn quickly, like paper, while complex carbs burn like wood and take a little longer to provide energy,” Manuel Villacorta, a spokesman for the American Diabetic Association, told U.S. News & World Report.
U.S. News suggested pre-made protein shakes as one option, but you can also make your own. Use juice or water as a base for the smoothie, as dairy can harm your exercise efforts. Adding peanut butter or a banana can boost the nutritious qualities, as can oats, flax meal or chia seeds.
Try any or all of these easy and tasty pre-workout snacks before you get your sweat on.
- Whole grain toast with a little bit of peanut butter and fruit or honey can give you immediate and long-lasting energy
- Greek yogurt with honey or fruit is loaded with healthy carbs and easy on the stomach
- Oatmeal with fresh fruit can help keep you hydrated and gradually release sugar into your bloodstream for prolonged energy
In addition to eating a healthy snack, you may want to consume some caffeine. A cup of coffee, espresso or tea before you work out can not only give you energy, but help prevent sore muscles the following day, according to findings from a study out of the University of Copenhagen’s Muscle Research Centre.
- When your workout is over, chances are your stomach will soon be growling. It’s important to eat protein after a workout. WebMD reported that 10 to 20 mg of protein will do, as any more than that won’t result in a greater effect. Eating protein after a workout helps your muscles recover more rapidly. You may also want to down a sports drink, which is loaded with carbs and potassium that will help you recover the energy expended during your workout routine.
- If you prefer a more natural beverage, water is always a good go-to, but adding a splash of juice can help replenish nutrients you might have lost while exercising.
- Just as you needed them before you started sweating, carbs and protein are important after a workout as well. The American Heart Association reported that you should try to eat carbs and protein within 20 to 60 minutes after finishing your workout. This way, they get stored as energy that will lend itself to repairing your recovering muscles.
- These post-workout foods will satisfy you.
- Grilled chicken
- Peanut butter
- Tuna on wheat or whole-grain bread
- Hummus and veggies
- Chocolate milk
Studies have found that drinking chocolate milk after a workout can boost recovery, because it contains the protein, carbs and water you need to bounce back after a big workout, according to Fitness magazine.