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Ever wish you had more energy to power through the end of a tough workout? Have you ever felt sore for three to four days after a workout, or felt as though you are not progressing towards your fitness or body composition goals? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, pre and post-workout nutrition could be the missing link. No matter your goals, consuming the right nutrients at the right times is key to replenishing and rebuilding your muscles.

Refer to the following guidelines to most effectively fuel your body and reap the hard-earned benefits of exercise.

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 three 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:

  • Whole wheat pasta + broccoli + ground turkey
  • Oatmeal + fresh fruit + low-fat Greek yogurt (ex: Dannon Oikos Triple Zero)
  • Whole wheat toast + scrambled eggs + vegetables of choice

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:

  • 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
  • Fruit + low-fat Greek yogurt (ex: Dannon Oikos Triple Zero)

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:

  • Whole wheat tortilla + black beans + low-fat cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs + whole wheat toast or English muffin
  • Quinoa + grilled chicken + roasted vegetables

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 tissue.

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. Please contact us to learn more about getting individualized recommendations.