If you’ve run out of energy before the end of a workout, remained sore for three to four days after a tough workout, or feel that you’re not progressing towards your fitness or body composition goals, proper pre- and post-workout nutrition could be the missing link. No matter your goals, it is essential to have enough energy from food to perform and adapt during exercise, as well as to repair and build muscle afterwards.

Refer to the following guidelines to understand how to nourish your body relative to when you exercise to reap the hard-earned benefits.

Pre-Workout Nutrition

3 – 4 hours before

Recommendation: The last substantial meal you eat before exercise should consist of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and a small amount of healthy fats.

If you exercise before food is fully digested, which takes about 3 hours, the stomach and intestines will compete with the working muscles for blood supply and performance will suffer.  If exercising over three hours after your last meal, aim to have a snack at least one hour prior.

Examples:

  • Complex Carbohydrates: whole grain bread/pasta products, brown rice, oats, fruits, veggies
  • Lean Proteins: beans/hummus, turkey, chicken, egg whites, low fat dairy products (i.e. cheese, milk, Greek yogurt)
  • Healthy Fats: nuts/nut butters, seeds/seed butters, olive oil, avocado

1.5 – 2 hours before

Recommendation: eat a snack consisting of mostly complex carbohydrates, lean protein and little to no fat

Consuming a small amount of protein and/or fat will help you feel full for longer than if consuming only carbohydrates.

Examples:

  • Fruit + low-fat Greek yogurt (ex: Dannon Oikos Triple Zero)
  • High-protein cereal or oatmeal (ex: Special K Protein cereal, Kashi GoLean cereal)
  • Whole wheat or whole grain bread with a small amount of nut butter and/or jelly
  • Whole wheat or whole grain sandwich or wrap with turkey, cheese, or hummus

1 hour before

Recommendation: eat a snack consisting of nearly all carbohydrates, especially complex

When eating this close to exercise, you want to give your body quick energy, i.e. carbohydrates. Protein and fat will slow digestion, so little to none should be included in a pre-workout snack this close to exercise.  About three hours after consuming a moderately sized meal, the contents of your stomach have emptied and you should provide your body with more energy for your workout.  If exercising over three hours after your last meal, aim to have a snack at least one hour prior.

Examples:

  • Fruit or all-natural fruit juice
  • Whole wheat or whole grain bread with honey, cinnamon, and/or jelly

Post-Workout Nutrition

After easy to moderate exercise

Recommendation: Consume a meal or snack within 60 minutes after your workout containing complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and a small amount of healthy fat.

After exercise, your body is primed to efficiently use nutrients to replenish the energy used and fuel your body for the next several hours. Having protein along with your carbohydrates will help repair the muscles that were used and a small amount of fat will help you feel fuller for longer.

Examples:

  • Complex Carbohydrates: whole grain bread/pasta products, brown rice, oats, fruits, veggies
  • Lean Proteins: beans/hummus, turkey, chicken, egg whites, low fat dairy products (i.e. cheese, milk, Greek yogurt)
  • Healthy Fats: nuts/nut butters, seeds/seed butters, olive oil, avocado

After rigorous exercise

Recommendation: Have a meal or snack within 30-45 minutes after your workout containing mostly carbohydrates, a moderate amount of lean protein, and little to no fat.

In order to improve your fitness level, you must consume carbohydrates after exercise to replenish energy in your muscles and protein to repair damaged muscle tissue and build new.

Example of protein-carbohydrate combinations:

  • Fruit + low-fat Greek yogurt (ex: Dannon Oikos Triple Zero)
  • Protein bar
  • High-protein cereal or oatmeal (ex: Special K Protein cereal, Kashi GoLean cereal)
  • Whole wheat or whole grain sandwich or wrap with turkey, cheese, or hummus

By following these guidelines and giving your body the nourishment it needs before and after exercise, you will set yourself up for energetic workouts, sufficient recovery, and steady progress towards your goals. You might be surprised at how good you can feel!

Please note that the recommendations and examples given are not exhaustive options and are intended for moderately active adults. For more individualized recommendations, please contact Julia or Paige.

Copyright © 2016 Fitness Consultants Inc. All Rights Reserved.