The question of how to fuel your body before and after your workout can yield different answers. It depends on many factors, including which studies you read.
I personally prefer to exercise as soon as I am up and out of bed. This way I will get it done and have absolutely no excuses for the day ahead. Plus, it makes me feel accomplished right from the get-go so I have better odds of maintaining that streak throughout my day. Because I go from the duvet into my workout gear and directly to the gym, I don’t really have time to eat. If I am planning on doing less than an hour of cardio, it won’t make too much difference as my body will rely on muscle glycogen stores for energy.
In fact, some studies suggest that for weight loss purposes eating breakfast after a workout rather than before will actually be more beneficial for your goals
However, if you’re planning on a longer cardio sesh or incorporating weight training, a pre-gym snack is important to maintain energy levels and optimize your performance.
Carbohydrates are an obvious go-to. But be sure to make the right choices to avoid sullying all your hard work. Avoid heavy, refined carbs such as white bread and pasta and steer clear of sugary cereals and breakfast bars posing as a healthy option.
The key is to combine complex and simple carbs. These give you that kick-start you need while maintaining energy levels throughout your workout and avoiding a crash. A slice of whole wheat toast with half a banana or a small serving of natural oatmeal is perfect if you’re eating 30 to 45 minutes before you suit up.
If you are going to be focusing on a strength workout (weights, circuits, etc.) aim to get a little bit of protein in there too. It will help with muscle recovery – but don’t go overboard as protein takes longer to digest. Instead of the banana, boil up an egg to go with your whole wheat toast. Or whip up a small turkey sandwich, but stay away from fatty condiments.
Fat also takes longer to digest so keep your snack as lean as possible to avoid any stomach upsets. Try and keep to below 300 calories. Any more and your body will still be working to digest it all when it should be working on feeling the burn.
The Best Snacks To Bite On Pre-Workout:
- ½ cup of low fat cottage cheese with fresh berries
- Small serving of natural oatmeal with fresh fruit
- Apple wedges with natural almond butter
- Nutrition bars but, beware: read the label thoroughly to ensure that it is low in sugar and contains high quality protein
Once you’re all squatted out and your arms feel like they belong to someone else, it’s time to refuel. What you put in your body after your workout is just as important as before.
Too often people feel that because they worked hard they should be allowed to indulge with heaping plates of carbs lacking any nutritional value. Resist that urge! Your body is in recovery mode and needs fluids and the right carbs, stat. Try to get something in your system within 30 minutes of exercising. It is at this time that your body will readily accept what you give it to begin the healing process.
Chocolate milk is ideal as it possesses the perfect carb to protein ratio for recovery (about 1 gram of protein for every 3 to 4 grams of carbs). Plus, it is a fluid so it really does tick all the boxes. If you’re adverse to dairy, chocolate almond milk has similar benefits and I personally prefer the taste to cow’s milk. Bananas are an easy snack to have in your gym bag for immediate nutrition. They contain carbs and high levels of potassium which will aid in recovery for your muscles.
The Best Snacks To Indulge In Post-Workout:
- Veggie omelette with avocado
- Grilled chicken breast with brown rice
- Whole wheat chicken/turkey/tuna sandwich with hummus and spinach
- Chocolate milk, banana shake with a high quality protein powder
You should avoid waiting until you get home or back to the office to eat. Your body needs replenishment and fast so prepare ahead. Be sure to have your post-workout snack stored in your gym bag or in the car.
Even with all these tips and advice, every body is different and you will learn what works best for you. Whereas I prefer working out on an empty stomach, I have friends that fade within 15 minutes if they don’t pre-snack. Listen to your body, be smart with your eating and you will see results. Remember to stay hydrated throughout your workout. Stretch when you’re done and be consistent!
Do you have a favourite pre or post workout snack? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.