"What should I eat before I workout? What about after? Does it matter when I eat?" The answers to all of these questions hold many different benefits (or drawbacks) to your overall health. What you eat before and after you exercise should be some of your most important meals of the day.
Morning Cardio (Pre)
If you are waking up to do a spin class, go for a run or engage in something more cardio based, you can get away with a piece of fruit, like a banana. It is full of simple sugars, which you will burn first, a tiny bit of fat, good carbs and a little bit of protein. A little coconut water can also do the trick, or a piece of dry toast and some melon. But what if you just get up and go? Still put something in the tank. You need to build in a little bit of time (but choose something like a simple piece of fruit that is easy to digest) so that you can put something in your body. When you sleep, your body fasts. If you wake up and immediately ask it to perform without any fuel, it will begin to use the good stuff - like muscle - and hold onto the bad stuff - like fat.
Morning Lift (Pre)
If you are lifting weights, you need to fuel up a bit more. A good mix of carbs, protein and a little fat should get you through the workout. If you are a serious lifter, you are fine to make a whey protein shake, with a banana and a little bit of natural peanut butter. A piece of Ezekial toast or a vegan waffle with a little agave nectar and a thin spread of almond butter will also do the trick. Though fat is the last thing you burn, if your workout is intense enough, it will give you the extra fuel you need to get through it.
Afternoon or Night Workout (Pre)
If you workout in the afternoon, you have a few more options. A piece of fruit with some nuts, a protein shake, a protein bar, some greek yogurt with granola, egg white muffins, half an English muffin... the list goes on. Think about something that you will be able to digest easily, but has good carboyhdrates to get you through your workout. Good carbs = energy.
Post Workout Morning
A bowl of oatmeal, some egg whites or a protein shake are all great options. A good mix of carbs, protein and a little fat will do the trick. Also be sure to rehydrate and replenish with electrolytes if you are a heavy sweater. Chocolate milk is also a great recovery drink, much better than Gatorade or other sugary drinks.
Post Workout Night
Down a whey protein shake (in a shaker bottle with water) the moment you leave the gym. This will immediately begin the replenishing process, supplying the necessary vitamins and minerals to your muscles. Within an hour, have a sensible dinner of lean protein, veggies and a complex carb, like wild or brown rice, sweet potatoes or whole wheat pasta.
A few things to remember:
1. You might want to skip the dairy in your pre-workout meal. Milk often feels sour in the stomach when you exercise. While a bowl of cereal might seem like an easy option, sometimes it doesn't work.
2. Avoid really acidic juices before your workout and processed, sugary drinks after.
3. Don't go overboard on the fat you ingest before a workout, as it's the last thing you burn off.
4. Pay attention to portion size. Eat according to your activity level. There's a large difference between the needs of a cyclist going 50 miles versus someone who is just going to the gym and lifting or doing cardio for 45 minutes. Supply yourself with enough calories to fuel your body, but don't go overboard.
5. Eat 40 minutes to 2 hours before you workout and within 1 hour after you workout. Always eat before and after.
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