Written by Isabella Adams, Guest Writer
Working out consistently throughout the week helps you maintain a healthy and fit body – but exercise is not the only consideration for good health.
To get the most out of your workouts, you need to properly fuel your body before, during, and after a workout. You can do this by drinking adequate fluids and eating the right foods that contain the nutrients needed to build muscle, heighten energy, and help with recovery.
In this article, we will go over how you can fuel your body with food before, during, and after workouts. Keep reading to learn about specific snacks and meals that are great at different points in the process!
Fueling Before a Workout
Before you hit the gym, it is essential to properly fuel your body with protein and carbohydrates.
Each person is different, so what foods work best for you before a workout may be different from the next person. The key is to make sure you feel full, energized, and prepared to work your muscles hard.
You also need to focus on hydrating yourself properly before working out. When you engage in strenuous exercise, your body sweats, releasing toxins, heat, and stress. While this sweat helps us to keep going in the moment, it ultimately dehydrates us – making the importance of drinking enough fluids beforehand all the more important.
The Best Time to Eat Before a Workout
According to WebMD, the best time to eat before a workout is between 1 to 3 hours prior.
This gives you ample time to digest your food and build up your energy levels. If you exercise too soon after eating, it can lead to an upset stomach, as your digestive tract has to share blood and energy with your muscles.
For some individuals, they may choose not to eat before a workout. While this may be ideal for some people with specific goals in mind, it can ultimately lead to lessened energy, light-headedness, or even nausea. Thus, it is generally recommended for the average person to eat a light meal before working out.
The Best Food to Eat Before Exercising for Energy and Endurance
Before working out, one of the key ingredients to focus on in your foods is protein.
Protein not only helps to build and repair your muscles but it is also excellent for helping you keep your energy levels high and feel full throughout your workout. According to Medical News Today, between 20 to 30 grams of protein is an ideal amount for increasing your rate of muscle protein synthesis.
Here are some great protein-packed foods to eat before exercising:
- Greek yogurt with whole fruits or organic dried fruits
- Eggs with multi-grain toast and avocado
- Oatmeal with peanut butter, nuts, and seeds
- Protein bars
Fueling During a Workout
As you work out, you will feel your body start becoming drained of energy. This may be the perfect time for a mid-workout snack and some extra fluids!
You don’t want to eat too much while working out, as this can cause stomach issues. However, light snacks that contain protein and carbohydrates can help to refuel your body and keep you going through the rest of your workout.
The key to fueling during a workout is to listen to your body. Your body is always going to let you know when you are hungry and when your energy stores are being drained. If you feel this happening, it is likely time to drink some fluids and eat a quick bite of healthy carbs.
Staying hydrated as you workout is one of the most important things you can do for your body.
Ideally, you should aim to drink between 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes of exercise, according to the American Council on Exercise. This is only a portion of the total fluids you should drink throughout the entire day, however. It is recommended for adult men to drink roughly 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids per day and for adult women to drink around 11.5 cups (2.7 liters).
While water is the best type of fluid you can give your body, you can also drink fluids such as sports drinks, enhanced waters, and fruit juices for some extra nutritional benefits. However, you should always aim to drink more plain water than you do flavored fluids.
Snacks for Longer Workouts
For longer, high-intensity, and vigorous workouts, we recommend eating between 50 to 100 calories every half hour, focusing mainly on carbohydrates.
Great sources of low-calorie carbohydrates include:
- Low-fat yogurt
- Raisins or other dried fruits
- Oat-based protein or snack bars
Refueling After a Workout
Once you have completed your workout, it’s time to rest and recuperate. Part of this resting period is refueling your body with post-workout snacks that help with muscle and energy recovery.
When looking for good post-workout snacks, you want to look for foods that include:
- Protein: Protein is essential after a workout, as it helps to build and repair muscle tissue. Plus, protein helps you to feel full, keeping you from overeating after a hard workout.
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are crucial for refueling your body’s glycogen stores. Glycogen plays a major role in fueling our muscles as we work out, and those stores need to be refilled afterward to keep energy levels high and our bodies functioning properly.
- Dietary Fiber: A healthy digestive tract is a key factor to good bodily health. By ensuring each of your post-workout snacks contains a good dose of dietary fiber, you can keep your body in good health and ready for your next workout.
You also need to focus on rehydrating your body following a workout. Not only do you need to eat healthy post-workout snacks but you must also ensure you are getting enough fluids to keep your body in good condition.
The Best Time to Eat Post-Workout
Eating after working out is incredibly important, as the foods you consume post-workout contribute to how well your body recovers and recuperates following a hard workout.
Within the first two hours after you have worked out, you should try to eat a snack or meal containing mostly carbohydrates and protein. These ingredients help to restore your body’s glycogen levels and aid in muscle repair. Plus, if you have a workday ahead of you after a workout, carbs and protein will help you rebuild your energy to get you through the day.
In terms of full, balanced meals, your body may not be immediately ready to consume that much food after working out. Thus, eating a light snack within the first hour after a workout and then following it up with a larger meal a few hours later is key.
Good Post-Workout Food Choices
As mentioned, you should aim to eat post-workout foods that are high in both carbs and protein. This helps your body recover, as well as aids you in feeling re-energized.
Great options for post-workout snacks packed with carbs and protein include:
- Green smoothies
- Turkey or chicken sandwiches on whole-grain bread
- Chicken salad
- Tuna and crackers
- Banana and peanut butter (or almond butter!)
Giving your body the fuel, it needs before, during, and after a workout is crucial for building a healthy lifestyle, you can maintain.
Working out regularly is no joke and can take a toll on the body without the proper food and care regiment in place. With the right foods and approach, you can easily keep yourself feeling full, energized, and ready to exercise.
About the Author
Isabella is an experienced nutritionist and a passionate freelance writer. She uses her knowledge and experience to write about trending nutrition topics and develop a healthy and joyous relationship with food and the body. Her tips help to make healthier lifestyle choices.