Ah the burning question when talking about sports nutrition… “What should I eat before and after a workout?” If you’re looking for the best foods to eat pre and post sweat sesh look no further. I’ve rounded up 50+ of the best foods to eat before and after working out along with some of my fellow dietitian friends’ favorites too. Thanks to Good Food Made Simple for sponsoring this post!
WHAT TO EAT BEFORE WORKING OUT
If you want to perform well, it’s good at least snack on something before you exercise to give you sustained energy through the exercise effort. If you have less than an hour, try something blended up and quick digesting like a smoothie, banana and PB, sports drink or even dry cereal. Keep in mind carbs digest quickly and fats and proteins take much longer to process.
I’m pretty obsessed with these Banana Pancake Puffs from Good Food Made Simple. They are yum for a quick snack right out of the freezer or grab a fork and top with banana, AB, coconut flakes and sliced almonds. Great pre workout fuel!
If you have more than an hour or two, eat a small to medium sized meal.. everybody’s stomach is different so you have to figure out what will work for you. The higher the workout intensity, the more careful you have to be about meal timing because eating the wrong thing too close to a workout could lead to tummy troubles.
WHAT TO EAT POST WORKOUT
After working out, try to get something in within 30 minutes to an hour to help the body recover optimally. It’s okay to wait up to two hours to get in a full meal after working out (you should still have a small snack right after), but it definitely depends on your workout effort, how long you worked out, and what you ate before your workout. To give your body all the tools it needs to recover have a meal balanced with protein, carbs, fats, antioxidants and fluids (with electrolytes).
When looking at protein needs for most athletes, a general rule is 20-30 grams of protein to provide enough amino acids to turn on muscle protein synthesis and speed recovery. To read more about amino acids check out my article on leucine.
Carbohydrate rich foods are important to recover the muscles and replenish glycogen “energy” stores. They also aid in building muscle because the combination of carbs with protein enhances muscle protein synthesis and allows protein to do its job instead of being used for energy.
Fluids are essential to recovery and if you’ve just worked out in a hot environment it’s smart to rehydrate with a bit of electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium. So add some salt to your food along with fruits (fresh, frozen or dried), veggies or coconut water (all great potassium sources)!
And to really up the ante with recovery… aim to eat foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness such as fruits, veggies, nuts or nut butters, chia or flax seeds, and fatty fishes.
What do you like to eat before and after working out? Share your favorites in the comments below.
Hi I’m Kristina LaRue, registered dietitian and millennial mom of two active and hungry boys. Here on Love & Zest, you’ll find (mostly) healthy recipes to fuel the whole family and real life stories of modern motherhood. I’m all about veggie-filled breakfast meal prep recipes, healthier sweets, and easy weeknight dinners made in the Instant Pot or sheet pan.
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