If you have managed enough time to go to the gym a few times a week, congratulations! You’re one step in the right direction. However, running for an hour on a treadmill or performing countless reps on leg day is only a job half done. To make sure your body is prepared for a workout and recovers from it, your workout requires one essential ingredient… well, ingredients… and that is food. What you eat before and after your workout can improve your results.
Think of your average day as a very light workout. You prepare for the day with a hearty breakfast, fit in a lunch when that energy starts to run down, and finish the day with a well-deserved dinner. The same goes for all of your workouts.
A meal an hour or two before your workout will provide you with the energy needed to get through a workout. Then a meal within an hour after will restore the energy you used and help your body recuperate. The two keys players in helping you gain the most out of a workout are protein and carbohydrates.
Carbs are the big energy suppliers. If you played a team sport, you may remember Pasta Parties the day before a big match. Pasta, whole-wheat breads, and cereals are excellent sources of complex carbs, which differ from simple carbs like candy that do not provide many vitamins, minerals, or fiber. These carbs will then be converted into glucose, a blood sugar that keeps your body up and running. Other complex carbs can be found in vegetables like spinach and broccoli or in legumes such as beans or lentils.
Proteins are the superstars that repair and sustain the muscle tissue that breaks down during a workout. Protein is abundant in meat such as beef, turkey, chicken, and pork, but it is not the only source. Beans, soy products, quinoa, and nuts are some plant-based types of protein that are easy to munch on. You may also want to consider a whey protein shake to deliver the protein your body needs right after a session. Studies have even shown that eating protein right after a workout results in significantly more muscle.
Depending on the level of your workout, you may need a little pick-me-up in the middle of a session to pick up the energy. It’s similar to when marathon runners eat a banana during the second half of the race. If your tank is running low, an energy bar or an easy-to-digest carb/protein source will give you the extra boost during your workout.
Making smart choices for your pre and post workout meal will greatly improve your workout results. Keep in mind that you should match your protein and carb intake to match your workout intensity. Make the most out of your workout by meeting your body’s dietary needs!
Try out some of these delicious pre and post workout snacks:
- Granny Smith apple slices and peanut butter
Greek yogurt, granola, banana, and strawberry parfait
Iced coffee and whey protein shake
Whole wheat pita and hummus
Open faced avocado, egg, and spinach sandwich on whole grain toast
Oatmeal with vanilla Greek yogurt and strawberries
Trail mix with nuts, granola, and dried fruit