Most of us probably know how to eat a healthy, balanced diet (putting it into practice is another story). But one thing a lot of people struggle with is trying to figure out the best things to eat before and after a workout to get the most benefits from both your food and your workout. Here, we break down what to eat before and after your workouts and give you some ideas to try for yourself.
Some people think that exercising on an empty stomach is the best way to burn calories and fat. This isn’t a good idea. Your body needs food to fuel itself throughout the day, including during a workout. Food is energy, and it’s going to be a lot harder to get an effective workout in if you have no energy. You could also become dizzy and extra sluggish if your blood sugar gets too low while you’re exercising. Plus, if you have no fuel in your system, you body will draw from your muscle tissue for energy.
Choosing what to eat before a workout can be tricky. You don’t want to eat so little that it doesn’t do anything for you, but you don’t want a big, heavy meal that might make you feel sick on the treadmill. A pre-workout snack should be low in fat and fiber, with easily digestible carbohydrates and protein. You should eat 2 hours to 45 minutes before a workout, depending on the intensity of the exercise and your own body’s needs. Bananas are a great pre-workout snack. They’re easy to digest and full of potassium, which helps your muscles function. Peanut butter is a protein rich spread that will help you sustain your energy levels without crashing. Just don’t go overboard, because it has a lot of calories as well. Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on a rice cake and top it with slices of banana. You can also have some protein-rich Greek yogurt with berries to keep you properly fueled. If you’re a morning exerciser, an egg white omelet with vegetables will be a satisfying breakfast that will keep you full through your workout.
It can be very tempting after a long, tough workout to reach for chips or cookies. You earned it, right? Often times, people overestimate how many calories they’ve burned during their workout, and almost completely undo all their hard work by overeating or eating too much junk food. To get the best results from you workout, you want to eat something with protein and complex carbohydrates within an hour to refill your energy, repair your muscles and keep your metabolism raised. Whole grain toast with peanut butter or avocado is a healthy and filling snack. Black beans, brown rice and salsa is a great snack, or can be made into a great post-workout meal with some grilled chicken breast and a salad with olive oil. You can also make a smoothie filled with fruits, veggies and complex carbs for a snack on the go.