We all want to fuel our bodies properly and get the most out of our workouts, but the question remains: What and when should I eat?
Everyone’s body is different and so are their goals, so food choices will vary depending on those discrepancies. However, a few things stay consistent no matter what:
- We all need carbohydrate, protein, and fat
- Our muscles grow and repair based on what we feed them
- Is. Vital.
If your sweat sesh will be a short one – less than an hour, it’s not necessary to munch on much. Your body’s glycogen stores should be good to go from your previous meals. Unless you’re working out first thing in the morning! Then grab a carb, and a small portion (think ½ palm-full) of protein, and you’ll be set. My morning go-to is a banana with 1 tbsp. nut butter! You could also sip on half of a protein smoothie and save the rest for post-workout.
Now, if your workouts typically last an hour or longer, or if you’re really sweating it out, you’ll want to fuel up properly. Shoot for 1-2 hours prior to the gym to avoid upsetting your stomach. Your glycogen stores will need fueled (carbs) and your muscles will crave something to help them grow (protein).
Here are my 4 favorite pre-workout snacks/mini-meals:
- Nutty toast: 1 slice multigrain toast (or whatever toast you prefer!), 1 tbsp. nut butter, and ½ sliced banana. Pro tip: add chia seeds for some good-for-you fat.
- Protein oatmeal: ½ cup oats, ½ scoop protein (peanut butter cookie is my FAV!), ½ cup almond milk, and handful blueberries.
- Homemade trail mix: small handful nuts, 2 dried apricots, 1 broken up square dark chocolate, and a handful of your favorite seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, it doesn’t matter!)
- Tropical smoothie: 1 whole orange, 5 frozen strawberries, ½ scoop vanilla protein, ½ cup frozen mango OR frozen pineapple, 1 cup water.
Post-workout muching is a must. There’s lots of disputing scientific evidence on what some call your “window.” Which is essentially a window of time post-workout that’s most effective to eat during for fat loss and muscle growth. Here’s what I say: If you can’t eat a meal right after a workout, make sure you’ve got a small snack on hand consisting of protein and light carbs. AND, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Another tip: If your pre-workout meal was large, it’s probably not essential you eat something immediately after your workout, think 1-2 hours post-gym. However, if you worked out in a fasted-state or only had a snack/mini-meal (like from above), your post-workout chow down could be larger.
What’s most important is WHAT you eat, not necessarily WHEN. Protein should be your focus post-workout, as it’s what your muscles require most. Carbs are great too – think low-glycemic index and not highly processed. The jury is still out on whether eating fats post-workout actually slows digestion and the absorption of nutrients, but it doesn’t seem to have major negative effects.
Here are my 2 favorite post-workout snacks:
- Basic protein smoothie: nothing exciting here folks. Just good ole’ protein and almond milk. If you prefer dairy, now is the perfect time to use chocolate milk!
- Wonderful waffles: 1 protein waffle, 5 strawberries, 1 tbsp. nut butter, and sugar-free syrup (if you like!).
I typically don’t eat a large meal pre-workout so my post-workout intake is larger. Here are my 4 favorite post-workout meals:
- Chipotle imposter: ½ cup rice, 4 oz. salsa chicken (if you’ve never made salsa chicken it’s SUPER easy!), sautéed bell peppers and onions, top it off with pico de gallo salsa. Voila. Just saved yourself $9.
- Sweet potato scrambler: In a skillet, toss together ½ roasted sweet potato, 1 serving cooked lean turkey, and 2 eggs scrambled. Top with salsa or hot sauce.
- Basic bodybuilder: top 1 serving cooked asparagus with 4 oz. ground beef and 4 oz. roasted red potatoes. I love to cook my asparagus in olive oil, rosemary, and black pepper – YUM.
- Protein spaghetti: ½ cooked spaghetti squash, 4 oz. ground turkey, chicken, or beef, 1 cup broccoli (or your favorite veggie), and 1 cup low-sodium & low-sugar sauce. For added flavor and a little fat, top with ricotta cheese.
If you take anything away from this let it be: it matters less about when you eat, and more about what you eat. It’s generally a good rule of thumb to eat more all natural foods: fruits, veggies, nuts, lean meats, etc. and less highly processed foods: packaged foods, ingredients you can’t pronounce, loads of added sugars, etc.
The best part about all of these snacks, mini-meals, and full-meals is that they can be prepped! So-simple.
What are your go-to pre- and post-workout foods? Let me know in the comments!