When it comes to exercise, one of the questions I get asked most often is “what should I be eating right before and after I exercise?” The most important thing to remember is, what you eat can affect how you feel during a workout and how well and quickly your body is able to recover afterwards. Therefore, it is important to provide your body with enough energy and the essential nutrients needed to be physically active and to perform well. Knowing what to eat before and after exercise might be confusing and difficult at first, but it doesn’t have to be!
Here are a few strategies to follow to ensure proper timing of meals before exercising:
- If you eat a large meal wait at least 3-4 hours before exercising
- If you eat a small meal wait at least 2-3 hours before exercising
- If you eat a snack you only have to wait 1 hour before exercising
Here are some general guidelines about meals or snacks before exercising:
- Meals and snacks should be low in fat and fiber
- Complex carbohydrates and lean protein should be moderate
- Liquids, liquids, liquids!– water is best if exercising for less than 1 hour
- Consume foods you are familiar with and tolerate well
Here are some pre-exercise snack ideas:
- Whole wheat English muffin with nut butter and fruit
- Greek yogurt with nuts and fruit
- Whole wheat cereal or oatmeal with water and fruit
- Half a turkey sandwich with low-fat cheese and fruit
- Low-fat cottage cheese with cucumbers and side of fruit
Directly after a workout, what you need to worry about the most is replenishing liquids and making sure your snack or meal contains carbohydrates with about 15-25 grams of protein. Eating protein and carbohydrates after a workout helps maximize recovery and will help you be able to continue workouts in the days to come.
If you have fewer than 8 hours between workouts or competitions you should start consuming carbohydrate immediately after the first exercise session; however, if you have longer periods of recovery between workouts or competitions it doesn’t matter how carbohydrate intake is spaced, as long as you are eating adequate carbohydrate, protein, and overall energy throughout the day.
Here are some post-exercise snack ideas that contain protein and carbohydrates needed for optimal repair:
- 8oz of low-fat/fat-free chocolate milk
- A smoothie using low-fat/fat-free white or chocolate milk with fruit
- Greek yogurt with fruit and granola
- Nut butter sandwich or lean meat (turkey, ham, chicken) sandwich on whole wheat bread
- Hard-boiled eggs with potatoes and low-fat cheese on a whole wheat tortilla
I hope these gave you some great ideas for fueling your body before and after your workouts! Happy exercising – and fueling!