Best Foods for Before and After Exercise


Pre- and post-workout foods are important. While everyone’s nutritional requirements are different, most of us don’t actually need to eat very much to successfully complete a workout. The body builds muscle and recovers 25 hours a day – not just at the gym. Smartly timed snacks fuel the body and help us build muscle and burn fat.

For a pre-workout meal early in the morning, eat a nutritionally balanced meal 1-2 hours before exercising. Don’t skip the carbs – they are fuel for your muscles. Aim for caloric content half of what you plan to burn. For example, if you expect to burn 600 calories on the treadmill, eat a pre-workout meal of approximately 300 calories.

  • high-protein-oatmeal-1-683x1024Try this Strawberry Banana smoothie from Say Yes to Happy via Smoothie Recipes for Everything. With yogurt, milk, ice, strawberries and bananas, this smoothie is easily digestible and supports maximum performance.
  • Oatmeal with fresh fruit is a classic morning staple. Try this High Protein Oatmeal recipe from Fannetastic Food. With rolled oats, eggs, milk, cinnamon, flaxseed and bananas, this oatmeal will keep you full and fueled.

Looking for a pre-workout snack to tide you over? Try eating a snack 60-90 minutes before working out. Aim for 100-200 calories of lean protein and slow acting carbs.

  • Strawberry-parfait-with-cottage-cheese-2These Easy Apple Peanut Butter Energy Bites from Joyful Healthy Eats are delicious! Apples are like nature’s caffeine, making this a perfect afternoon pick-me-up. The peanut butter offers protein and the chia seeds help fill you up. If you’re not a fan of peanut butter, any nut butter will do!
  • Creative Homemaking has a savory and nutritious recipe for Fresh Strawberry Cottage Cheese. This parfait recipe combines fresh fruit, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and crunch whole wheat cereal.

When eating post-workout, it is important to refuel and recover with meals that combine the right balance of protein and carbohydrates. If your stomach feels up to it, try to eat immediately after exercising. Your body uses stored energy (glycogen) in your muscles to power through exercise. After the hard work is over, you need to replenish what is lost.

  • Chicken-Pasta-Salad-with-Butternut-Squash-Tart-Cherries-and-Caramelized-Onions-8327Lights Camera Spatula offers an easy recipe for Chipotle Chicken with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans. The grilled chicken is packed with protein and flavor, while the sweet potatoes offer healthy complex carbohydrates.
  • The balance of protein and carbs in this Chicken Pasta with Butternut Squash
    recipe from Love and Zest is perfect for a post-workout meal. This delicious recipe also includes foods that fight inflammation to prevent muscle soreness and speed up recovery.

Don’t forget about hydration! Make sure to drink 17-20 ounces of water before exercise, and 7-10 ounces every 20 minutes during your workout. And after you’re done breaking a sweat, drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise.

Here are a few pre-workout takeaways:

  1. Don’t eat right before you exercise. Give yourself at least 30 minutes.
  2. Don’t eat too much fiber or drink too much water. This can cause bloating and cramping.
  3. Eat a good source of complex carbs to keep you energized, but not crash mid-workout.
  4. Never try anything new on race day! It is best to experiment with new foods during raining to learn what works best for your body.

Here are a few post-workout takeaways:

  1. Don’t reward yourself with foods high in calories and saturated fats.
  2. Keep your metabolism high by sticking with three small meals and two healthy snacks.
  3. Don’t skip a post-workout meal! Refuel your body to build muscle and improve recovery.
Sources: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]


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