Pre-workout, post-workout​If you’re looking to maximize your workouts and achieve your fitness goals, it’s essential to pay attention to your diet. What you eat before and after your workouts can make a big difference in terms of energy, performance, and recovery. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of eating the right foods at the right time, and provide you with some ideas for pre- and post-workout meals.

Why Eating Before Your Workout is Important

Many people believe that working out on an empty stomach can help burn more fat. However, research has shown that your body burns the same amount of fat whether you eat before or not. In fact, working out on an empty stomach can lead to muscle loss, slow your metabolism, and make it harder for you to lose weight in the long run.

When you’re hungry, your body goes into survival mode and draws protein from muscle instead of from your kidneys and liver, where the body normally looks for protein. This can cause muscle mass loss, which can ultimately slow your metabolism and make it harder for you to lose weight. Plus, if you exercise on an empty stomach, you’re not giving yourself the fuel you need to power through an intense training session. Not giving proper fuel to your body before a workout is like ‘driving a car on empty.’ You also might not have enough energy to maximize your workout, and you limit your ability to burn calories.

What to Eat Before Your Workout

The best pre-workout food contains some form of complex carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates are digested faster than fat or protein, and this is important, as eating too much fat or protein or even a large-carb meal within two hours before a workout will drive blood flow to the stomach, not the muscles. Carbohydrates are rapidly used up during a workout, leaving fat as the fuel the body will burn once the workout gets started. Avoid saturated fats and even a lot of healthy protein — because these types of fuels digest slower in your stomach and take away oxygen and energy-delivering blood from your muscles. The key is to consume easily digested carbohydrates, so you don’t feel sluggish. Here are some of my favorite snacks to keep me energized during my workout without weighing me down:

  • Banana with almond butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Multi-grain crackers (10) with hummus (3 tablespoons)
  • Apple and walnuts (1/4 cup)

The Importance of Eating After Your Workout

During exercise, your body uses the fuel stored in your muscles known as glycogen for energy. After workout, your muscles are depleted of their glycogen stores and broken down. Eating (or drinking) something that combines protein and carbohydrates 30 minutes to an hour after your workout refills energy stores, builds and repairs your muscles that were broken down, and helps keep your metabolism burning strong. Research shows that your body’s ability to refill muscle stores decreases by 50 percent if you wait to eat just two hours after your workout compared to eating right away after your workout.

What to Eat After Your Workout

According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine, consuming protein and a little carbohydrate is best immediately after exercise. Here are some ideas for foods to eat after your training sessions to help speed up recovery, maximize exercise benefits, and help maintain lean muscle to aid in weight loss:

  • Protein shake made with half of a banana, one scoop of protein powder, almond milk, and hemp seeds (excellent protein source)
  • Salad with roasted chickpeas (1/2 cup), light olive oil, and vinegar
  • Sautéed or steamed vegetables (1 cup) with non-GMO tofu (1/2 cup)
  • Quinoa bowl (1 cup) with blackberries (1 cup) and pecans (1/4 cup)
  • Burrito with beans (1/2 cup), brown rice (1/2 cup), guacamole (2 tablespoons), and salsa
  • A quarter cup of sliced grapes mixed into half a cup of cottage cheese
  • A quarter cup of blueberries mixed with half a cup of yogurt