You give it your all when you work out, so ensure that your efforts are maximized by making smart food choices before and after a workout.
Focus your efforts on high-quality nutrition to reap the rewards of proteins, vitamins, and minerals to:
But nutrition pros will tell you that the answer is not energy bars or drinks. The best strategy is the right wholesome foods at the right time. Even those just starting an exercise routine can benefit from thinking about their workout nutrition in three phases.
Whether you're doing cardio, weight-training, or a combo of the two, the right time to eat a well-balanced, easy-to-digest meal is two to four hours before your workout.
Focus on complex carbs to top off the energy stored in your muscles.
Include a moderate amount of protein to prep your muscles for post-exercise recovery.
Go easy on fat like nuts and oils, and foods heavy in fiber like broccoli or cauliflower, to prevent tummy problems. And, of course, drink plenty of fluids.
If there's no time to fit in a full meal before your workout—if your workout is early in the morning or right after work, for instance—focus instead on a pre-workout snack. This micro-meal 30 minutes or so before you exercise is extra important if you'll be working out for 60 minutes or more.
Before you work out, focus on carbs your body can access quickly.
During a workout, keep those carbs easy to consume.
Fun raisin fact: Nutrition researchers compared the performance of elite runners who recharged with either sports-specific energy chews or a supply of raisins. The raisin group got the same boost in energy as the sports-chew group for a fraction of the cost.3
After your workout, your focus should be on refueling and recovery. Think about the three Rs:1
Ideally, you should refuel within 45 minutes after exercising, and most people aren't quite ready for a full meal by then. That's where these quick-recovery options are ideal:
A quick snack is perfect right after a workout, then follow it up with a fuller meal centered on:
Interesting whey protein fact: Many athletes use whey protein post-workout because it is easily digested. Plus, it contains high amounts of an amino acid known to help build and repair muscles.
You don’t have to be a seasoned athlete to benefit.
No matter what your workout—a brisk walk or a long-distance run—exercise is an investment of time and energy. When you're putting that much effort into exercise, it's just as important to think about what you're eating.
“To truly live healthily you need to find balance in all areas of your health,” says MOBE Guide Alessandra. “Eating, sleeping, moving your body, and stress management—if one of these is off, the rest can fall.”
Work on your nutrition goals with one-to-one support from a MOBE Guide. Get started today.
1. What to Eat Before and After a Workout,” Amy Goodson, American College of Sports Medicine., https://www.acsm.org/blog-detail/acsm-certified-blog/2018/06/25/what-to-eat-before-and-after-a-workout.
2. “Pre- and Post-workout Snacks for Different Workout Durations,” Gina Crome, American Council on Exercise, https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/3532/pre-and-post-workout-snacks-for-different-workout-durations/.
3. Brandon Too, et al., “Natural Versus Commercial Carbohydrate Supplementation and Endurance Running Performance,” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 9, no. 1 (2012): 27, https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-9-27.
4. “Eating and Exercise: 5 Tips to Maximize Your Workouts,” Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/health-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20045506.