Before you workout, you should plan on having a snack or meal 1-3 hours in advance. You may have to experiment to see which time frame feels best with your body. If you are exercising early in the day, a big meal might not be best. For those exercising later in the day, a snack 30 minutes before your workout will suffice, or have a well-balanced meal and then work out two hours later.
Don’t forget to drink water before working out. There’s no one-size-fits-all method of determining fluid needs during exercise, but you can drink two cups of water two hours before exercising and one cup 10 minutes before working out. With this amount of water, you will minimize dehydration, which can cause low energy and muscle cramps. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that we drink roughly 2 to 3 cups of water during the two to three hours before your workout and drink about 1/2 to 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout.
When we’re hungry, our bodies go into survival mode and draw protein from muscle, rather than our kidneys and liver. When we lose muscle mass, you can slow down your metabolism and it’s harder to lose weight. Your pre-workout snack should include carbs. When we eat carbs, they break down into glucose, enter our muscle cells and give us fuel to exercise. If you’re strapped for glucose during your workout, you will be tempted to quit early. More blood goes to our muscles during exercise, leaving less for digestion. Peanut butter and jelly is a great option because it gives you the energy your muscles will require during exercise. The peanut butter adds protein which will leave you feeling full. Protein is especially important for those doing strength-training exercises, such as lifting weights. Our bodies need protein to repair any micro-tears, which occur during strength-training exercises. Another pre-workout snack option is oatmeal with low-fat milk and fruit or a fruit-and-yogurt smoothie. Oatmeal is a superfood because of its nutrients, including complex carbs, vitamin B1, iron and fiber. Eating oatmeal before a workout is smart because its complex carbs digest slowly, so you will receive a steady release of sugar into your bloodstream. Oats are rich in iron, which helps your cardiovascular system work at optimal levels, as well as vitamin B1, which helps convert carbs into energy. The fiber in oatmeal helps you feel full throughout your workout and prevents binge-eating after your workout. Yogurt is easy on the stomach and provides protein, which will prevent muscle breakdown that occurs during exercise. Some might only consider trail mix for hikers, but it will provide the energy needed for exercise and is easy on the stomach. Almonds provide protein and heart-healthy saturated fat. If you’re short on time, grab a banana that has easy-to-digest carbs and antioxidants, which will prevent muscle cramping. In addition, bananas are full of B vitamins that assist with energy metabolism and muscle-loving minerals like potassium.
After exercise, our bodies are ready to refuel and rebuild muscle tissue, so it’s important that you eat within an hour of finishing. It’s important to restore glycogen stores, enhance recovery, increase muscle protein synthesis and decrease muscle protein breakdown. Research has proven that your body’s ability to refill muscle stores decreases by 50 percent if you wait to eat just two hours after your workout compared to eating right away.
Studies have found that ingesting protein maximizes the body’s ability to recover after exercise. Some carbs that will provide your body with the right nutrients for adequate recovery include sweet potatoes, rice, pasta, and dark, leafy green vegetables. Protein recommendations include cottage cheese, protein bars, tuna or eggs, and good fats include nuts, trail mix, and avocado. Cottage cheese is high in protein and loaded with the best types of amino acids, which aid the creation of muscle after a workout.
In addition, it’s also important to drink water after your workout, because we lose water and electrolytes through sweat. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that we drink roughly 2 to 3 cups of water after your workout for every pound of weight you lose during the workout.
It’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to eating and exercise, everyone is different. Pay attention to how you feel during your workout and adjust your pre-workout snack accordingly. How do you feel after your workout? Let your experience dictate your post-exercise eating habits.