What to Eat Before and After Working Out

What to Eat Before and After Working Out

What to Eat Before and After Working Out

Failing to eat before and after a workout can limit the effectiveness of exercise. If you don't properly fuel your body, the endurance and strength you're looking to build can be lost or limited because your system is forced to break down muscle for energy.

So, how do you get the most out of your workouts? Provide your body with the carbohydrates it needs for energy and the protein necessary to build muscle. Your pre-workout meals should limit fat and fiber because these macronutrients digest very slowly. Pre-workout fat and fiber can jostle around in your stomach during a workout and cause indigestion. Post-workout, fat and fiber can slow down replacing the carbs burned during the workout and the muscle repair process.

What to Eat Depends on What Your Workout Will Look Like

Are you going on a long biking trip or an extended run? Then you're looking to build cardio endurance. Your mix of carbs and protein should lean more to the carbs. Here, the optimal ratio is around 4 grams of carbs for every 1 gram of protein.

If your workout is aimed at strength training, such as a weight-lifting session or another kind of resistance training, then you need more protein. To maximize muscle growth, you will want around 2 grams of carbs for every 1 gram of protein for your pre-and post-workout meals.

If you're planning on engaging in an activity that isn't specifically focused on strength or endurance, aim for a carb/protein ratio around 3 to 1. Many bodybuilders and athletes believe a disciplined diet and nutrition are even more important than exercise routines to develop your body.

Pre-Workout Meal Suggestions

Ideally, you should eat 3 to 4 hours before a workout. Eating too close to an exercise session could interfere with your digestion.

1. Turkey and Swiss Cheese Sandwich
Turkey is one of the leanest meats available. The swiss cheese and bread provide carbs. You should add low-fat chocolate milk and apples to round out the meal. If you're strength training, eat more turkey meat and less apple and milk. You might wish to sub regular low-fat milk for the chocolate milk.

2. Low-fat Greek Yogurt With Berries
One cup of plain Greek yogurt contains around 20 grams of protein. That amount is fairly close to many pre-workout protein drinks that typically have 30 to 35 grams of protein per scoop. Add in your favorite type of berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, or acai berries. These fruits are high in antioxidants which can help reduce inflammation caused by muscle strain.

Add in a salad with chicken breast to round out the meal. Skip the chicken, eat a smaller amount of yogurt, and increase the amount of salad and berries if you're looking to boost the carb/protein ratio for cardio-heavy workouts.

3. PB&J Sandwich with Banana
Peanut butter contains s high amount of protein, while jelly is packed with carbs for energy. Add in a banana that not only provides carbs but also includes electrolytes to help your neurons fire, which is useful during a workout. Drink low-fat milk to add fluid as well as more protein.

What to Eat A Short Time Before a Workout

If you have only a short time before a workout and haven't had any food, you should still eat something. Working out with low blood sugar will force your body to break down both muscle and fat for the energy needed to exercise.

While getting rid of fat is the goal of many people, you are also losing hard-won muscle. You won't want to eat anything heavy because digestion can take away from the energy needed to exercise. In this case, you can try the following suggestions:

4. Banana
Bananas are high in potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Vitamin C combats cortisol, which is a stress hormone that the body releases during exercise. Bananas have the carbs and electrolytes to aid a workout while still being easy to digest.

5. Greek Yogurt and Fruit Smoothie
You can make a smoothie by putting the Greek yogurt and berries into a blender while adding water or ice. Smoothies are very easy to digest and the added water will provide hydration for your workout.

Post-Workout Eating Suggestions

Even though upsetting your digestion isn't a problem post-workout, you still want foods high in carbs and protein to replace the energy burned during the workout and to aid muscle-building.

Immediately after a workout, you can snack on foods such as:
  • Greek yogurt with granola and berries
  • Apple slices dipped in peanut butter
  • Almonds and chocolate milk

Good options for your next meal include:

1. Stir-fried Chicken Breast with Basmati Rice and Vegetables
Ohe half of a typical chicken breast contains 27 grams of relatively lean protein. Healthy stir-fry recipes typically call for brown rice, but many people aren't fond of its dryness and taste. Long-grain Basmati rice has almost as good a glycemic index as brown rice while coming closer in flavor to regular white rice.

2. Egg on Whole-Wheat Toast
Eggs are a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids that your body does not produce on its own. Whole-wheat bread provides carbs for energy along with fiber to keep down blood sugar.

2. Turkey in Whole-grain Wrap
Turkey is a good source of lean protein with 19 grams per 3 ounce serving. The whole-grain wrap adds carbs while having less impact on blood sugar than white bread or wraps made from white flour. Use avocado spread to add magnesium and potassium, which can help prevent muscle cramps. Avocado also contains healthy fats for your heart and many other beneficial nutrients.

4. Salmon and Sweet Potato
Salmon is a source of protein that is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Omega-3s have the added benefit that they help fight post-workout inflammation which can prevent sore muscles. Sweet potatoes have 23 grams of carbs along with a lot of fiber to prevent rapid blood sugar spikes.

Is It More Important to Eat Before or After a Workout?

The answer to this question is unclear. Studies have come to contrary conclusions. However, eating both before and after workouts is important and can help optimize the benefits of exercise. You really should do both if possible!

Eating before a workout gives you the energy to exercise. Eating after a workout helps your body recover. If you only have time to eat once, the better option will depend on your current food status. If you haven't eaten a long time before a workout, it's probably best to eat first rather than exercise while depleted. If you are adequately fed before working out, eating after exercise is likely to be more important.

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