What to Eat Before and After Working Out
Your body doesn’t just work to build muscle and recover only when you exercise; the body actually does this 24/7. If you strategically time your snacks or meals, you can actually give your body the fuel it needs to gain muscle, burn fat, and recover as best as it possibly can. Pre- and post-workout foods should offer the right mix of carbohydrates, fats, and protein to quench your hunger, give you the energy to power through and burn the most calories, help you build lean muscle and lose weight, and speed up recovery.
Before You Sweat It Out
Whether or not you eat before exercise, your body burns the same amount of fat regardless. However, if you regularly work out without eating first, you may actually cause muscle loss because your body goes into survival mode when you’re hungry, drawing protein from muscle. And muscle loss is something you want to avoid because it can slow down your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight.
Prior to exercising, you should balance your carbs with protein. Try meals that are somewhat high in carbs with moderate protein and are low in fat. Protein will help you with muscle building and repair, but carbs will give you the energy you need to sustain you during a workout. Go for carbs that easily digest, and stay far away from high-fat foods, fried foods, or large amounts of food.
The trick is to time it right by eating within four hours of exercising, and then having a small snack about an hour before working out.
Here are some pre-workout food ideas:
- A smoothie made of skim milk blended with frozen fruit
- Brown rice with black beans
- Whole-grain crackers and low-fat string cheese or hummus
- A banana with almond butter
- Hard-boiled eggs
- A small sandwhich on whole-wheat bread with chicken, turkey, or lean roast beef
- Oatmeal with berries
- Low-fat yogurt with a sliced banana
- An apple and walnuts
What to Munch on After
In order to replenish energy as well as to build and repair the muscles that were broken down during your workout, you should keep your metabolism strong by eating something that combines protein and carbs about half an hour to an hour after. This could be either solid or liquid form, but the point is that the sooner you ingest it, the better it will be for your body.
Here are some ideas on what to eat immediately after your workout to help speed recovery:
- A protein shake
- Poached eggs on whole-wheat toast
- Sauteed or steamed vegetables
- A bowl of quinoa with pecans and black berries
- Stir-fried chicken and vegetables over brown rice
- Whole-wheat pasta with chicken, broccoli, and eggplant
- Multi-grain bread with raw peanut butter
- Salad with roasted chickpeas
- Whole-grain cereal or oatmeal along with milk and fruit
Keep these in mind to energize your workouts, maximize exercise benefits, and speed up recovery time for your muscles.