If you’ve been into fitness for a while, you likely know how important it is to fuel and replenish your body before and after exercise with the proper nutrition. However, you might be uncertain and confused about why, when, and what to eat and drink to optimize your workouts.
Why: When digested, carbohydrates are turned to glucose, the body’s main energy source. Consuming a moderate-to-high amount of carbohydrates depending on the type, duration, and intensity of exercise will help you maintain consistent energy levels throughout. Additionally, adding a moderate amount of protein to your pre-workout meal or snack can “prime” your muscles and may help prevent muscle breakdown during exercise.
When: Within 1–3 hours of exercise (typically)
What: Moderate to high carbohydrate, moderate protein, fluids
Examples: Apple or toast (carb) with peanut butter (protein), Greek yogurt (protein) with berries and/or granola (carb), string cheese (protein) and crackers (carb), etc.
What NOT: Avoid fatty/greasy/fried, spicy, and fibrous foods because they may cause stomach upset during exercise.
Why: After exercise, you must replenish the carbohydrates used for energy and consume plenty of protein to aid in muscle repair. The more energy you use during exercise, the more carbohydrates you will want to replace. Similarly, the harder you work your muscles, the greater strain you put on them, the more protein you will want to consume to aid in recovery.
When: Within 1 hour of exercise (typically).
What: Moderate carbohydrate, moderate to high protein, fluids
Examples: toast (carb) with tuna, chicken salad, or eggs (protein); Greek yogurt or chocolate milk (protein) with fruit (carb), turkey lunch meat (protein) with veggies and dip (carb), protein shake/bar
All in all, the timing and amount of food required to properly fuel and replenish your body before and after exercise is highly dependent on the individual, the type of exercise being performed, and the individual’s goals. Speak with a registered dietitian to better understand your individualized nutrition needs.
This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.