No matter what time of day you prefer to exercise, you must ensure that your body has the proper fuel. For your body to properly refuel, rebuild, and recover from an exercise, you must consume the appropriate nutrients before and after your workout. But when exactly before and after exercise should you consume food?
It’s complicated. The fitness community is split on when to eat before, during, and after a workout. It’s true that many people have preconceived notions about this issue. And let’s be real: the best time to eat is sometimes the most convenient moment.
Rule of thumb: consume carbs and a small amount of protein 30-60 minutes before exercise. You should eat protein-rich foods within 30 minutes of finishing an exercise.
Do we hear something simple? Certainly not in that sense.
Best Snacks to Eat Before a Workout?
Fitness expert and “Biggest Loser” cast member Jillian Michaels stressed the importance of fueling up before and after working out. Michaels recommends eating before working out, even though other fitness experts recommend fasting before a workout (more on this in a bit). If you don’t eat, your blood sugar will drop dangerously low and cause a state of shock. Michaels claims that if one does not have enough blood sugar, the body will consume glycogen (stored glucose) from the muscles. Low blood sugar will worsen if you’re already tired and sluggish before your workout. “You’ll have greater energy and stamina to work harder, burn more calories, and enhance your muscle tone” if you eat within the 30-to-60-minute window before your workout.
However, there will always be some people (in this instance, quite a few) who would rather exercise without eating beforehand. No matter how you feel about it (emotional or logical), this is not the ideal method to be ready for a workout. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that eating before cardiovascular exercise did not affect fat loss. Women who did steady-state cardio either before or after a meal lost about the same weight and fat as those who did not.
Simply put, food is energy. The absence of it forces the body to scrounge for the strength to carry on. No matter how intense your workout is, you will only be able to keep going if your body has had time to refuel carbohydrates. Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine confirmed this. After studying a group of moderately trained men, researchers found that those who had eaten before their runs had greater speed and endurance.
After a Strenuous Workout, What Are the Best Snacks to Refuel With?
Protein should be consumed within 30 minutes after exercise, as most nutritionists and fitness professionals recommend. To use Michaels’ phrase, “the golden hour.” At this time, “nutrient absorption by muscles is at its highest, and glycogen replacement is at its quickest,” Michaels puts it. Repairing your muscles is the primary benefit of eating after exercise. “We think a lot of overuse injuries happen when people are not renewing important building blocks as readily as they should,” Jennifer Beck, M.D., a sports medicine expert and paediatric orthopedist at UCLA, told SELF. It’s only good for your body if you use (or overuse) your muscles, giving them time to recover and regenerate. A post-workout snack high in protein can help reduce muscle soreness.
Tips for a Healthy Snack After Your Workout
After a strenuous workout, weariness and confusion are common feelings. After a HIIT or hot yoga class, it’s typical to have low blood sugar and dehydration (or just about anything that gets your blood pumping). You can protect yourself from these negative outcomes by eating foods high in protein, potassium, calcium, and salt. And remember that a protein bar or nut butter will suffice rather than a three-course dinner.
Grilled chicken and sautéed vegetables
You just expended a lot of energy; replenish it with food. Nutritionist Ariane Resnick recommends a diet high in grilled chicken and sautéed veggies. To paraphrase, “chicken’s lean protein and carbohydrates will fill you up, and vegetables add a heart-healthy boost.” To maximise the nutritional value of your vegetables, you should sauté them instead of steaming them. She says, “Sautéing vegetables can be a healthier alternative since many of the vitamins in vegetables are fat soluble, meaning that the oil helps your body absorb them.”
Whole grain cereal or oatmeal
Heart-healthy oats and whole grains should be your go-to post-obstacle-course meal. “Oats or a whole-grain low-sugar cereal with fruit and almond milk or whey protein instead of milk for a higher protein alternative [is] my go-to,” explains Hannah Richards of Cardiff Sports Nutrition. This meal has the ideal amount of carbohydrates, natural sugars, and protein to restore your muscles and hydrate you. This is typically done in the morning and entails rigorous training within a short time.
What’s the best way to avoid muscle fatigue and pain? Richards recommends topping rolled oats with blueberries and a scoop of whey protein for a healthy breakfast. She thinks blueberries are great for lowering muscular soreness after weight training because they are anti-inflammatory nutrients. Whey protein is a great source of fast-acting protein and amino acids, aiding muscle repair and growth. Oats are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, which, when combined with protein, can speed up the healing process and help you build muscle mass.
As a kid, chocolate milk was probably your go-to recovery drink because it balanced carbs and protein. Richards notes, “After running, you need to hydrate and replace glycogen stores.” Water-based chocolate milk has the ideal balance of carbs and protein for muscle repair after a strenuous workout. In agreement, nutritionist Shawn Talbott says, “I particularly like chocolate milk and PB&J for their mobility, so you can consume them after workouts away from home.”
Water is critical before, after, and during physical activity; just a nice reminder.