What to Eat Before and After a Workout

We all know getting the recommended amount of physical activity every week is essential for our health and well-being. It can:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Improve heart health
  • Make you more flexible and improve the fluidity of your joints
  • Give you a better night’s sleep
  • Give you a serotonin boost and put you in a great mood 

You should always talk to your doctor before starting a fitness regimen, but most agree regular movement and activity is the key to longevity and improved function. 

As you develop a workout routine, better eating habits are the next step. After all, feeling good often leads to better choices. But what should you eat, and when? Should you eat a heavy meal, or stick to just fruits and veggies? Will eating the wrong foods ruin all your hard work? 

You’ll get benefits from exercise no matter what. However, the type of food you consume can boost your productivity and make your workout more comfortable. Here are some tips on what to eat after you workout, as well as before. 

What to Eat Before a Workout:

  • Complex carbohydrates. Eating quality carbohydrates an hour or two before a workout can really give you that oomph you need. Just make sure they’re the complex variety — the energy received from simple carbs can make you crash. Look for options that take a little longer to digest, like oatmeal, a banana, or other fresh fruit. 
  • Protein (if you’re strength training.) Is there anything protein can’t do? Protein is a favorite in the healthy eating community, and with good reason — it contains those magic amino acids, which help your body repair and regenerate. Low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, or an egg are a great choice. Just keep your protein intake on the moderate side.

Look for snacks that combine carbs and protein, like a fruit and banana yogurt bowl, or whole wheat toast with cottage cheese and strawberries.

Foods to avoid:

  • Fatty or high-fiber foods. These foods can cause stomach cramps and gas buildup.

What to Eat After a Workout:

  • Water. Ok, technically this is drinking, not eating. Gulping down lots of water before or during a workout may cause stomach distress. After a workout, however, drink up and stay hydrated
  • Protein and complex carbs. Our workout stars are back! High-intensity cardio and strength-training use up our stored energy and break down muscle, so we need another dose of these building blocks to help restock and repair. Think lean protein and whole grains, like a chicken breast and brown rice. If you’re looking for a post-workout snack, carb-rich protein bars or protein shakes with fruit are a great option. 
  • A little fat. Nuts, full-fat yogurt, or avocado are good choices. Greasy foods, however, may be a bad idea while your body is trying to repair itself. 

Eating the right nutritious foods is one of the most important steps in your workout. Macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) fuel and repair the body, allowing you to achieve your fitness goals. Restricting too many calories can actually set you back. Talk to your doctor about the right caloric intake for your goals, and which foods suit your health needs.

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