When it comes to your body, you need to eat right. That means cutting down on junk food, chocolates, and soda. But eating right during your workout means so much more. It means having a balanced meal to fuel your body, adding proteins that will add to the muscles of your body, and fluids to ensure you are hydrated. Eating right, and working out goes hand-in-hand. And figuring out what to eat before and after a workout can be such a struggle but it’s worth it. If you’re going to put your body through the paces, you should fuel it first with proper nutrition. And no, not protein shakes and supplements. We are talking about the kind of foods you would enjoy anyway—and will enjoy even more when you know they’re helping you reach your fitness goals.
Here Is What Your Pre-Workout Meal Should Look Like
So, some people work out on an empty stomach, but you don’t have to. Ideally, you should fuel up before you work up a sweat—and definitely, definitely drink water before, during, and after.
1. Time Your Workout
First things first, time your meal before your workout. The ideal time to eat is between 30 minutes to three hours before your workout. That way you’re not still digesting when you hit the gym floor, but also ensures that you haven’t used up all those helpful calories yet. If you’re working out first thing in the morning, you probably won’t be able to eat a whole meal before you hit the gym. A small snack or mini-breakfast should suffice.
2. Hydration Is The Key
It’s best to get your body hydrated before you even think about heading to the gym. A good place to start is by drinking about 2 cups of water around two to three hours before exercise and 1 cup of water about 10 to 20 minutes before working out. The goal here is to minimise dehydration—which can cause low energy and muscle cramps or spasms—without drinking too much water. You should also try to stay hydrated throughout your workout.
3. Pre-Workout Snacks
Eating healthy carbohydrates such as whole-grain cereals (with low-fat or skim milk), whole-wheat toast, low-fat or fat-free yoghurt, whole grain pasta, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables, fuel the body. The key is to consume easily digested carbohydrates, so you don’t feel sluggish. Avoid saturated fats and even a lot of healthy protein because these types of fuels digest slower in your stomach and take away oxygen and energy-delivering blood from your muscles. If you only have 5-10 minutes before you exercise, eat a piece of fruit such as an apple or banana.
If you are looking for wholesome snack options, here are a few:
- Smoothie bowl with cut fruits
- Green smoothie
- A granola yoghurt bowl
- Baked salmon and roasted veggies
Here Is What Your Post-Workout Meal Should Look Like
You need to eat after a workout. There is no way around it. Eating after a workout is all about replacing the calories you used up. Plus, eating protein after a workout is a must for speedy muscle recovery, particularly after weight training. When you don’t eat after a workout you can end up fatigued and battling low blood sugar. You’re also inhibiting your body’s repair process. Here is what to do post-workout.
1. Rehydrate ASAP
Replenishing the fluids you lost while sweating as soon as you can is even more important than eating right away. Getting enough water after exercise is crucial, but also do not over drink. Do what feels right for your body.
2. Refuel With Your Food
If you just worked out really hard, your body has just used up the energy it needs to function at maximum capacity. If you aren’t able to eat a full meal right away have a snack after your training, then a full meal a few hours later. Your post-workout meal should be high in complex carbohydrates that break down slowly and are loaded with healthy protein. Quinoa, brown rice, nuts, tofu, and beans are good carb options.
3. Add Proteins
If you are an athlete, think about increasing your protein intake. You may require a little bit of extra protein to build your muscles. If you’re doing a less intensive workout—for example, 25 minutes on the treadmill or 20 minutes in the weight room—your protein needs may not be as high and there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you are looking for post-workout snack options, here are a few.
- Hard-boiled eggs with a slice of whole-wheat toast
- A veggie omelette with roasted veggies
- Green smoothie
- Toast, peanut butter, and a sliced banana
But remember, the above is just a guideline, not strict rules. You can try them out before committing to a plan. And always do what feels good to your body. Everyone has different food and nutrition needs, so what works for you, might not work for the next person. Enjoy your workout!