You don’t have to be a competitive athlete to need optimal nutrition before, during and after your workout. Movement is essential to your health (and keeping your joints healthy!) and fuel for your workout is just as important. If you feel confused about what to eat, you’ve come to the right place.
Here’s the latest on how to find the optimal fuel for your body before, during and after your workout so you can improve your performance, maximize your recovery, and feel great!
Fuel Before Your Workout
You don’t want to be working out with an empty gas tank. But you don’t want a stomach full of food either! If you get the timing right for your pre-workout meal, with the right nutrients, you’ll be able to lift more, run longer & faster, and speed up your gains. Plus, you’ll feel so much better doing it!
Since our body’s preferred, easy-to-access energy source is carbohydrates, your pre-workout fuel should be higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein and fat. Protein and fat take longer for our body to digest and our body needs the energy available to put toward the workout. So, more protein and fat are better at other times in the day.
Timing – aim to eat about an hour before your workout to give your body time to digest.
Here are a few Pre-Workout options that work well for pre-strength or pre-cardio workouts:
- Small apple and a handful of raw nuts (or nut butter)
- ½ cup of plain oatmeal with berries
Fuel During Your Workout
Just plain water will do the trick during your workout. Experts recommend drinking between 3-8 oz of water every 15 minutes during your sweat session. Also, you can hold off on the sports drinks unless you’re exercising for 90 minutes or longer, or are exercising in extreme heat.
Sports drinks help to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes but are not necessary for the average gym user. Even better is to skip the sugary, neon-blue commercial sports drink all together and just whip up your own beverage for longer, sweatier workouts.
Coconut water is a great natural substitute or, here is a homemade electrolyte recipe for a fraction of the cost and infinitely healthier:
- 2 cups of filtered water
- ¼ lemon, squeezed
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- ¼ tsp pink or sea salt
Fuel After a Cardio Workout
It is recommended that you eat your post-cardio snack about 30 minutes after finishing up because your muscles are primed and ready to begin accepting nutrients.
And because you have been using more carbohydrate stores during a cardio workout (e.g. running or spinning) you’ll need to replace them by eating a snack or meal that is 3:1 or 4:1 carb to protein ratio – similar to your pre-workout ratio.
Try one of these snacks after your next cardio workout to replenish your carbohydrate stores (glycogen) used and to help you recover faster:
- Carrot sticks & 2 Tbsp hummus or bean dip
- 1 piece of fruit and a small handful of raw nuts or seeds
Fuel After a Strength Workout
With strength training, you’ll still want to consume your post-workout snack or meal within 30 minutes, but you’ll be changing the ratio of carb to protein here. This is important in order to recover and rebuild those muscles you’ve been working. This meal should be approximately a 2:1 or 1:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.
Here are a few examples of a balanced “post-lifting” meal:
- Grilled chicken breast with roasted vegetables
- 2 hard-boiled eggs and carrot sticks
Finally, I want to let you in on a little secret for faster recovery from your workout. Tart Cherry Juice!! Research shows that tart cherry juice helps to reduce inflammation, particularly from osteoarthritis!! You can incorporate tart cherries into your diet using this challenge or this smoothie.
Do you have a go-to recovery snack that you love? Please share it in the comments below.