What foods you eat before and after a workout play an important role in your quest to fitness.
Eating and drinking the right foods will help you get the most out of your workout, burn more calories, and build more muscle. Don’t sabotage your workout efforts by fueling your muscles with junk. To do their job efficiently, your muscles need to be energized before exercise and repaired after.
While eating anything is helpful, some foods and drinks do this job better than others, so be picky about what you choose to eat—especially on the days you work out.
Here’s a closer look at what to eat before you head to the gym and what to go for afterward to replenish your tired muscles.
Prepare for Workout
An hour to an hour and a half before you hit the gym to work out, fuel your body for your upcoming routine. You don’t want to exercise on a full stomach, so a small snack should do the job. Wonder what foods and drinks are best at fueling your body with energy and endurance for a good workout? What you want to look for are foods high in simple carbs and lean protein. Simple carbs are digested quickly to give your muscles a burst of energy and prevent muscle fatigue. Protein is necessary for supplying your muscles with the oxygen and nutrients necessary for power, endurance, and muscle growth. Choose sources of carbs and protein that are low in fat, fiber, and sugar and are known to settle well in your stomach.
For carbs, think of cereals, pastas, breads, fruits, or vegetables. Good sources of protein include lean meats, eggs, nuts, and dairy. For a healthy pre-workout snack, try a smoothie made with milk, Greek yogurt, and berries; apple slices with peanut butter; a bagel and an egg; trail mix made with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit; or pasta salad mixed with vegetables.
In your effort to fuel your body, don’t forget about hydrating it. It’s easy to get dehydrated during exercise, so be sure to drink plenty of water before your workout.
Recover from Workout
Right after exercising, your energy may be waning and your muscles are eager to absorb nutrients needed to repair damage to muscle tissue and prevent soreness. Give your body what it wants by grabbing a small snack within 20 minutes of the end of your workout. Post-workout snacks should be similar to your pre-workout snacks with one difference. Protein is what your muscles crave after a tough workout or strength training. The amino acids in protein get to work repairing small tears in muscle fibers and building new muscle cells. In addition to protein, you’ll want to choose complex carbs (rather than simple carbs) to replenish your energy stores.
Looking for a simple post-workout snack that contains both protein and complex carbs? Try a tall glass of chocolate milk. It’s high in protein, carbs, fluids, and valuable vitamins and minerals needed for muscle recovery and energy replenishing. Other ideas of what to eat after a workout include a hard-boiled egg and whole-grain toast, grilled chicken on a bed of brown rice, tuna or hummus on whole-grain crackers, an omelet mixed with vegetables, or a protein shake.
Just like you hydrated before exercise, it’s important to replenish lost fluid after exercise. Choose chocolate milk, water, or a sports beverage to get the job done.
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