This is a post that I was asked to write by a friend of mine, and I am so glad she asked me to write this because it’s something I don’t ever really take the time to put thought into, but something that I know many people struggle with knowing how to do.
As weird as it may sound, regardless of what your fitness goals are, what you eat pre and post workout is just as important as the workout itself. If you’re not fueling your body properly before your workout, you’re not getting the most out of your workout, no matter how hard you work. On the same token, if you make a habit of not replenishing your recovering muscles after a workout, all the progress you make in the gym, is kind of retroactive.
There are a ton of different opinions on what’s best to eat pre and post workout, and I am only sharing with you what works for me. I’ve read countless articles on what researchers say is most important, and I’ve made my choices based on the general consensus I’ve come to after reading these articles. What works for me, may not work for you, so take that into consideration!
When choosing something to eat before your workout, keep in mind that your muscles need to be properly fueled to get the most out of a workout. That means it’s important to choose something nutrient dense as well as something that won’t weigh you down.
There are two main components you should keep in mind when choosing a pre-workout snack: complex carbs and protein. Any form of carb you choose is going to give you energy, but it’s best to choose a complex carb (whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes, non starchy vegetables, most fruits, quinoa, steel cut oats, oatmeal, etc.). Complex carbs are digested more slowly so you’re getting a continuous amount of energy throughout the workout. The protein will be used as fuel for your muscles.
As far as when to eat pre-workout, this is truly where you have to decide what’s best for your body, because everyone is different! For me, eating an hour before my workout is ideal. If I eat any closer to my workout, I don’t feel like I’ve given my body enough time to digest the food and I end up feeling full and sluggish. If I eat too early, I don’t feel like I have enough energy to get through the workout in an effective way.
Here are some of my favorite pre-workout snacks:
- Whole wheat toast (complex carb) + almond butter (protein) + banana slices (carb)
- Greek yogurt (protein) + berries (complex carb) + chia seeds (protein)
- Whole wheat toast (complex carb) + avocado (fat) + hemp seeds (protein)
- Banana (complex carb) + peanut butter (protein)
- Apple (complex carb) + peanut butter (protein) + hard boiled egg (protein)
- Cottage cheese (protein) + berries (complex carb)
- Whole wheat crackers (complex carb) + string cheese (protein)
- Steel cut oatmeal (complex carb) + 1/2 scoop protein powder (protein)
- Whole wheat toast (complex carb) + Laughing Cow Cheese Spread (protein) + turkey (protein)
As important as it is to make smart choices pre-workout, it’s even more important to make smart choices post workout. During a workout, you’ve broken down your musles and depleted them of glycogen and glucose, so those need to be repaired and replenished soon after you’re done. Eating quickly also helps restore your metabolism.
The two-hour window after your workout is critical in restoring these glycogen and glucose levels. Research has proven that after those two hours, you’ve missed your window to effectively restore these levels, so remember to eat as quickly as possible!
It’s important to include two key components in your post workout snack: protein and a simple carbohydrate. Protein and carbs are both going to help restore those glycogen and glucose levels. A simple carb is important because they’re broken down, digested and used quickly.
Here are some of my favorite post workout snacks:
- Protein shake (protein) + banana (simple carb)
- Chicken (protein) + rice (simple carb)
- Protein bar (protein + carb)
- Cottage cheese (protein) + dried fruit (simple carb)
- Ground turkey (protein) + sweet potato (carb)
- Greek yogurt (protein) + granola (simple carb)