When it comes to getting healthy, you probably already know that nutrition is just as important as exercise but did you also know your body requires different types of fuel for different types of movement? What you eat before and after your run, Pilates class, or strength training session can either fuel or sabotage your success. And no one wants their hard work to go to waste! Read on to discover why timing is everything when it comes to fueling your workouts and what you should eat before and after each type of workout.
Why Timing Is Everything With Fueling Your Workouts
You don’t want your stomach growling during exercise, but you don’t want to feel like you just ate Thanksgiving dinner either. Ideally, you want to fuel your body with healthy, nutritious foods that are no longer hanging out in your stomach when it’s time to work out. A high carbohydrate, low fat snack is ideal for most pre-workout snacks because it can easily be digested, plus it regulates your blood sugar.
As far as post-workout snacks go, the 60 minutes after you finish a workout is the perfect time to refuel with a combination of protein and carbs. That winning combo is what helps speed up your recovery time and replenishes your glycogen stores. A quick note: if you finish up your workout and it’s time for a main meal like lunch or dinner, go ahead and just eat that (no need to double up on a snack!)
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Also, listen to your body. If you only workout for 20 minutes, you likely don’t need to bookend it with snacks on either side. The main goal is this: don’t go into any workout starving, but don’t feel the need to double up on meals before an intense class. Use tips to guide you in terms of what snacks are best for before and after each workout, and if you’re not hungry or just ate, no need to eat again before your workout. Make sense? Let’s move on to the best things you can eat before and after every type of workout, from running to Pilates and everything in between!
If you’re going for a twenty minute jog, you don’t necessarily need a pre-run snack, but a long-distance jaunt over 45 minutes merits some fuel about an hour before you hit the pavement. If you’re a coffee or tea drinker and it’s morning, you can also have a cup of coffee or tea during that timeframe, too. Be sure to recover after your run with a combination of protein and carbs. Here are some examples:
- Avocado toast
- Whole grain bagel topped with banana and peanut butter
- Healthy granola bar or energy bar
- Cottage cheese with fruit
- Chocolate milk. (Believe it or not, chocolate milk is beloved by long-distance runners logging serious miles. Why? It contains B vitamins in addition to protein and carbs)
Strength training calls for plenty of protein afterwards, but how much you need to fuel up before does depend on how intense your workout will be. If you’re just doing a quick circuit workout of strength moves, you might not need anything beforehand. If it’s going to be a more intense strength session, you’ll want a little something an hour before and then protein afterwards. That sweet spot of anywhere from zero to 60 minutes after working your muscles is where you want to get a clean source of protein to help your muscles recover.
- Greek yogurt (The combination of whey and casein means you’re giving your body a beneficial combination of fast-and-slow digesting proteins!)
- Whole grain tortilla with turkey, hummus, and grains. (This would also work as a great lunch option if your weight training falls around midday.)
- A protein smoothie with whey protein and ginger. Ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, which will work to fight off muscle soreness after an intense session in the gym.
- A few hardboiled eggs
High intensity interval training requires a lot of energy; but you don’t want to overload your system before doing moves like plyometrics or other jumping movements. A light snack an hour before your HIIT workout is best. Afterwards, it’s important to replace energy stores (glycogen) and repair muscles with a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein after you’re done. The American Council on Exercise asserts that the right pre-and-post workout fuel for HIIT workouts can boost your energy and provide better results. Here are some stellar HIIT snack choices:
- Energy bars with nuts and dried fruit
- Steel cut oats
- Whole wheat toast with nut butter
- Hummus and pita bread
- Greek yogurt with shaved almonds
- Lean protein (chicken breast, for example) with a healthy grain like quinoa or brown rice and veggies makes a perfect dinner
Pilates or Barre
Both Pilates and Barre classes can sneak up on you with how hard you’ll be working. Both tend to focus on concentrated movements that build both muscle strength and muscle endurance. Depending on where you are between meals, use these pre or post snack ideas to fuel your class properly!
- A few hard-boiled eggs
- Handful of nuts, which will give you protein and energy
- Whole grain cereal with soy milk
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Smoothie with pineapple and ginger, which both can ease muscle soreness and reduce exercise-induced inflammation.
While in downward dog, nobody wants their stomach to be sloshing around. If you have anything before yoga, let it be light and give your stomach enough time to digest. Here are some ideas of what to nosh on before and after you say namaste:
- Green smoothie/juice
- Coconut water
- 1/2 cup edamame
- Leafy greens with chicken or tuna
- Omelet with fresh fruit
PS: Don’t Forget To Hydrate!
No matter when you work out or the form of exercise you choose to do, stay hydrated. Water is essential to keep your body working safely and productively. Here are some of the health benefits of water:
- Prevents dehydration
- Helps eliminate toxins from your body
- Improves digestion
- Helps to naturally suppress appetite
- Helps carry nutrients throughout your body
- Aids in the metabolism of the stored fats in the body
- Water can help reduce the likelihood of back and joint pain
No matter what workout you do, fuel it with clean food and plenty of water. You’ll get more out of your movement and bounce back ready for the next sweat session with ease!