Think of food before exercise as fuel for fitness. Food after exercise should replenish energy, boost recovery and jumpstart muscle repair. Here are a few good choices that support your health goals without busting your calorie and fat budget.
Smart workout snacks before the gym
Forget whatever you’ve heard about working out on an empty stomach. You wouldn’t drive your car without gas would you? You shouldn’t workout with no food for fuel either. In an article titled, “How to Fuel Your Workout,” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Heather Mangieri, MS, RDN, CSSD says carbohydrates are partially converted to glycogen, which is stored in your muscles to power your workout. Fifty to sixty percent of energy used during one to four hours of continuous moderate to hard endurance activity is derived from carbohydrates.
Before a workout reach for easily digestible nutrients that provide the energy you need to do your best. Avoid heavy choices that can cause gastrointestinal upset. Fuel up an hour or two before exercise to top off carbohydrate stores.
Good choices include:
- Fruit and oatmeal (be sure you know how your body will respond to anything with fiber)
- Peanut butter on pita or apple slices
- Eggs and toast
- An energy bar
- Don’t forget to hydrate (water is fine)
How much you take in will depend on how soon and how hard you intend to workout.
After a workout of moderate to vigorous intensity lasting 60 minutes or more, your body needs carbs and protein to replenish energy stores and support muscle tissue repair as well as muscle development. Ideally, you would take in about 12 to 15 grams of protein and 35 to 50 grams of carbohydrates within 30 minutes of exercise.
Good choices include:
- Pita bread with hummus
- Low-fat chocolate milk
- Greek yogurt with fruit
- String cheese and crackers
- Protein shake with a banana
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Tuna on wheat (hold the mayo)
- Turkey and hummus on whole wheat
- Don’t forget water
Avoid overeating after your workout. It is easy to overestimate how many calories you burned and underestimate how many calories are in that pizza or burger. Stick to a sensible, balanced diet so you can enjoy all the benefits of working out, including improved cholesterol levels and heart health. Getting into that new bathing suit is an extra bonus.