When it comes to working out, good nutrition is just as important as the exercise itself. The food you eat before and after a workout can significantly impact your energy levels, performance, and recovery.
While most people are already aware that eating healthy is important, many are not quite sure what exactly that means when it comes time to exercise.
It Depends On Your Goals
Different fitness goals require different nutritional approaches.
For example, when you consume carbohydrates before a workout, it increases the glycogen stores in your muscles and liver, which provides your body with the energy it needs to perform at a higher intensity and for a longer duration.
So if your goals are to maximize your performance and go for your personal best, eating more carbs before your workout can help.
However, consuming a high amount of carbohydrates before a workout can cause a spike in insulin levels, which can promote fat storage and reduce the body’s ability to burn stored fat for energy.
So if your goal is to burn fat and lose weight, your workout will be more effective if you avoid carbs before exercising.
What To Eat Before Your Workout
Before a workout, it’s important to consume foods that will provide your body with the energy it needs to perform at its best. Some good options include:
- Bananas: Bananas are a great source of easily digestible carbs and potassium, which can help prevent muscle cramps.
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a slow-burning carbohydrate that will provide you with sustained energy throughout your workout.
- Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt is a great source of protein, which is essential for muscle repair and growth. It also contains carbohydrates to provide energy.
- Whole grain toast with peanut butter: Whole grain toast provides carbohydrates, while peanut butter provides protein and healthy fats.
What To Eat After Your Workout
After a workout, your body needs nutrients to help repair and rebuild muscle tissue, replenish glycogen stores, and reduce inflammation. Some good options include:
- Grilled chicken with vegetables: Grilled chicken is an excellent source of protein, while vegetables provide important vitamins and minerals.
- Protein shake: A protein shake with a scoop of whey protein powder, fruit, and almond milk is a quick and easy way to replenish protein and carbohydrates.
- Salmon with brown rice: Salmon is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, while brown rice provides complex carbohydrates for energy.
- Sweet potato with turkey: Sweet potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates and vitamins, while turkey provides protein and amino acids.
Unhelpful Foods For Worse Workouts
Some foods can make exercise uncomfortable and undo your fitness progress. Avoid these foods before and after your workout:
- Fried foods: Fried foods are high in unhealthy fats and calories, which can make you feel sluggish and uncomfortable during exercise.
- Sugar: Sugar can cause a spike in insulin levels, which can lead to a crash in energy levels and reduce the body’s ability to burn stored fat for energy.
- Processed foods: Processed foods are often high in sodium and preservatives, which can cause bloating and inflammation, making exercise uncomfortable.
- Alcohol: Alcohol can dehydrate the body and interfere with muscle recovery, leading to slower progress.
One of the biggest mistakes many people make after exercising is “treating” themselves with something unhealthy or high in calories (like a donut or ice cream), thinking that they’ve “earned it” for working out today.
The big problem with this is that those “treats” tend to have many more calories in them than you just burned, and they provide little or no nutrition to help you recover and build muscle. This can easily undo all the hard work they just put in.
Instead, choose healthier treats such as a piece of fruit or a small serving of dark chocolate.