Studies show that what we eat before, during and after a workout can have a significant effect on our energy levels, the quality of our workout, and the recovery process which follows.
Our muscles need to be properly fuelled to get the maximum benefit from the workout we’ve just completed. And, without the proper nutritional support, you won’t get the optimal “bang for your buck,” from the hard work you put in.
That said, however, if you are eating a healthy diet, and are getting enough calories to support your activity levels, you can probably rely on your own appetite, energy levels, and experience to tell you how much to eat before, during, and after a workout.
What To Eat Before, During And After A Workout
Here are a few additional suggestions to help you gain maximum benefit from your workout.
1. Before A Workout
Your muscles rely mainly on carbohydrates for energy production during a very intense workout.
So, in your pre workout meals you may like to include some complex carbohydrates, such as wholewheat bread or pasta, rice, fruits and vegetables, along with a little protein to help prevent a blood sugar spike.
Try to keep your fat intake to a minimum, since high fat foods tend to take longer to digest, and can therefore leave you feeling heavy and sluggish during your workout.
Your pre-workout meal should also be light in volume — you don’t want to have a large amount of food to digest while you’re working out, as this could reduce your ability to train at the intensity you’d like to.
Try to make sure you are properly hydrated throughout the day, and particularly prior to and during your workout, also.
Water is the best choice (unless you are an athlete) for hydration prior to workouts. Sports drinks aren’t necessary for most of us.
2. During A Workout
For all but those engaging in long-term endurance exercise, it isn’t necessary to eat during your workout.
You should, however, keep a water bottle with you to rehydrate every 15-30 minutes during your training session.
If you are planning a very long bike ride or run, you may want to take along an energy bar, or some easily digested fruit, such as a banana, or orange slices, to help maintain your blood sugar levels.
You may have noticed energy gels in health stores, which come in small packets, and are similar in taste and consistency to pudding. These gels are packed with sugar for instant energy during a long, continuous workout, and can provide a quick energy boost.
However, they don’t provide much in the way of nutritional value, and for most people they are completely unnecessary.
3. After A Workout
Studies show the best post-workout nutritional strategy is to eat quite soon after finishing a workout.
Some believe there is a window of 30 minutes to 2 hours following exercise, when our muscles are most receptive to storing carbohydrates, and repairing damaged tissue.
Failing to eat within 2 hours of finishing your workout can delay your recovery from exercise, and leave you with less energy for your next training session.
If you have cut back your carbohydrate intake, but still like to eat a little each day, your post-workout snack or meal is the perfect time to do that.
Also, don’t forget to get some protein in, too, for muscle refueling and repair.
As I’ve empathized already, it is also very important to replenish the fluids you have lost during exercise.
What are your favorite meals and snacks pre and post workout?