What to Eat Before & After Working Out
Before Working Out
About 3 to 6 hours before a workout, eat a meal mostly made up of complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates contain glucose, the body's main energy source for muscles during exercise. Easily digestible, carbohydrates help the body use fat during exercise. Complex carbohydrates provide lasting energy to the body and include whole grains, brown rice, couscous, millet, quinoa and bulgur. About 1 to 2 hours before a workout, eat a snack that is high in carbohydrates (simple or complex). Examples include fruits, crackers and granola. Avoid eating high-fiber carbohydrates, such as lentils and broccoli, during the preworkout snack; they can cause gas and indigestion during a workout.
While protein and fat are not the body's chief suppliers of energy, they do contribute to satiation, and fat provides fuel for endurance exercise, such as running and long-distance biking. Add lean sources of protein and healthy fats to the meal (3 to 6 hours before exercise). Lean sources of protein include flank steak, salmon, chicken breasts, lean ground turkey and tuna. Healthy fats include canola oil, walnuts, almonds, olive oil and flaxseed oil. During the preworkout snack, add small portions of fat and protein to your carbohydrate snack. Small portions include low-fat cheese, yogurt, peanut butter and low-fat milk.
Preworkout hydration is as equally important as preworkout nutrition. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and a loss of coordination. According to the American Council on Exercise, exercise performance can decline if a person's hydration level decreases by just 2 percent during a workout. Exercisers should drink 16 to 24 oz. of water an hour before workouts and drink 8 oz. of water every 15 minutes of exercise.
Post Workout. 3 Options.
1) Two tablespoons of peanut butter and four graham cracker squares are an easy post-workout food to prepare and pack with you. Choose these peanut butter crackers to get a good dose of healthy fats in addition to the carbs and protein your body needs, and supplement with plenty of water to rehydrate after your exercise session. Replace regular peanut butter with a reduced-fat variety if you are counting calories.
2) Select an eight-ounce carton of low-fat fruit yogurt to get a calcium boost along with the recommended post-exercise levels of carbs and protein. Yogurt is also a great source of probiotics---the "good" bacteria that may help in ailments such as yeast and urinary tract infections, according the Mayo Clinic. Make your own varieties of fruit yogurt by mixing two tablespoons of your favorite jams into a cup of plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt.
3) Another healthy post-exercise food combination is a medium or large banana and an ounce of turkey meat. The banana supplies plenty of carbs along with potassium, and the turkey contributes the recommended protein. Exchange the banana for other nutrient-dense fruits, such as a cup of mixed berries, for a change of pace. As with peanut butter crackers, drink lots of water with this post-workout food to replenish your body's fluid level.