What you eat before a workout fuels your body – and what you eat after a workout is just as important. Timing your meals with your workouts is also crucial when it comes to fueling up for optimal results – and recovery. Keep reading for all the details!
Research shows the body burns the same amount of fat whether you eat or don’t eat before a workout – but not eating enough before exercise can make you dizzy, lightheaded, nauseated or lethargic. Skipping your pre-workout meal and regularly working out on an empty stomach can also actually cause muscle loss! When you’re hungry, your body goes into survival mode and draws protein from muscle instead of from your kidneys and liver (where the body normally looks for protein). This causes you to lose muscle mass, which can slow down your metabolism and make it harder for you to lose weight.
Your pre-workout meal should have some form of complex carbs and a protein. The key is to have a mix of complex and simple carbs so that the release of energy is slow and steady throughout your workout. When we eat carbs, our bodies break it down into glucose, which enters our muscle cells and gives us fuel (carbs = energy!). Our muscles store glucose in the form of glycogen, and our bodies dip into these reserves when we’re putting them to work.
Protein is also important to include in your pre-workout meal, especially if you’re doing strength training exercises. Lifting weights creates micro-tears in our muscle fibers, which our bodies repair when we rest – and protein is needed to do that!
Here are a few quick and easy pre-workout meal ideas:
-Oatmeal with nut butter and fruit
-Whole-wheat toast with nut butter
-Crackers and hummus
-Rice cakes topped with nut butter
-Fruit and nut butter (try bananas or apples with almond butter!)
-Dried fruit and mixed nuts
-Salmon, brown rice and roasted veggies (you guys know I LOVE my salmon. Check out all my recipes here!)
The ideal time to eat these meals is between 30 minutes to 2-3 hours before your workout; a snack 30 minutes before your workout or a well-balanced meal 2-3 hours before. So that way, you’re not still digesting when you start your workout, but you also haven’t used up all those calories yet. I suggest experimenting with the time frame to see what works best for you and your body!
Just like how you need to fuel your body before a workout, *refueling* post-workout gives your body what it needs to recover from the exertion and build muscles. After a workout, your muscles are depleted of their glycogen stores. So eating or drinking something that combines carbs and protein 30 minutes to an hour after your workout refills energy stores, maintains your metabolism and builds and repairs your muscles that were broken down. Research shows that your body’s ability to refill muscle stores decreases by 50% if you wait to eat two hours after your workout vs. eating right away!
Your post-workout meal should be high in complex carbs and loaded with healthy protein. Here are a few post-workout meal ideas to boost recovery, maximize exercise benefits and help maintain lean muscle:
-Quinoa or brown rice with a protein of your choice
-Grilled salmon with a baked sweet potato
-Grilled chicken with sautéed or steamed veggies
-Omelet with avocado and sautéed veggies
How are you fueling up before your workouts – and refueling after your workouts? I’d love to hear!