3 Easy Tips to Help You Properly Fuel Pre- and Post-Exercise
Are you ever hungry before working out, but have a difficult time deciding what to eat? How about after – are you wondering what you should eat? It’s difficult to exercise on an empty stomach and it can feel confusing when trying to decide how to refuel after a workout. Not to mention, it’s also dangerous to exercise while not properly hydrated or nourished and/or to skip repletion after working out. In this blog, we’ll talk about foods that can curb your hunger, improve performance and help you recover faster.
Pre- and post-workout foods aren’t always one-size-fits-all, but there are key nutrients in foods that will assist you no matter what type of exercise you perform. There are even specific foods that go beyond performance, like tart cherry juice, which helps reduce soreness after exercise. Proper hydration and nourishment are vital when it comes to exercise and performance. Here are some pre- and post-workout tips that will help fuel your physical needs:
1. Hydration Is Key Dehydration is the greatest contributor to fatigue and decreased performance but hydration is commonly overlooked. Before you start working out, make sure you’re properly hydrated as this will improve your performance right from the beginning. If it’s a sweaty workout, replenish with the appropriate fluids throughout, as this will help you “push” through your workout. Try weighing yourself pre- and post-workout to see if you’ve lost weight; if so, this is an indication that you’re dehydrated. Regardless of the type of exercise you’ve completed, underperforming could be due to losing weight after an exercise session and not hydrating.
2. Fuel With Carbohydrates When it comes to macronutrients, carbohydrates are the primary source of energy used by the body during exercise. When consumed, carbohydrates are stored in the muscles and liver so they can be used later. Consuming insufficient amounts of carbohydrates can be dangerous, especially if the type of exercise is vigorous. Therefore, it’s important to include carbohydrates in the form of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your daily meals to prevent a deficit of this nutrient in your body.
3. Rebuild With Protein Although protein is essential for recovery and rebuilding muscle, it is the last source the body wants to use for energy. Exercise, specifically resistance training, tears muscles. Protein rebuilds the torn muscle leading to greater muscle mass. Protein is known for building muscle mass and increasing strength, but more protein doesn’t necessarily mean more muscle. Your body will use the protein it needs and any excess can still be converted into fat.
Essentially, it’s important to focus on a balance of macronutrients when exercising. Below is a list of combination food you can try before and after your next workout:
Pre-workout Snacks. Consume one to four hours before exercise, hours vary depending on the individual.
Peanut butter sandwich with either banana or jelly
Banana with peanut butter
Raisins and nuts (2:1 ratio)
Apple slices and peanut butter
Greek yogurt with berries
If low on time and planning to go for a run, consume an easy-to-digest (low fiber, low fat) carbohydrate 45 minutes to one hour before your run. This will prevent you from experiencing gas, nausea, and/or cramping because these carbs take longer to digest. Some options include plain pasta, toast, pretzels, a breakfast bar or a fruit smoothie.
Post-workout Snacks. Consume within one hour of completing a workout.
Low-fat chocolate milk
Low-fat yogurt with berries
Turkey on whole-grain wrap or bread
Smoothie made from low-fat milk and fruit (e.g. berries, mango, pineapple, cherries)
As described above, you’ll notice that each snack contains both carbohydrates and protein. There are many other options you can try; these are just some examples that demonstrate how carbs and protein can be combined together. At the end of the day, you know your body better than anyone else. This means you know what you’re able to tolerate before/after a workout and regardless of what you choose always remember to stay hydrated, fuel with carbs and rebuild with protein.
Written by: Manuel Alonso, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern