What to Eat Before & After Exercising : Figuring out the pre and post-workout diet can be a bit of a hassle but it’s extremely important. The body needs its fuel to function properly and achieve the gains for which you have been working. This post is not so much about supplements as much as natural foods.
Some say you need to fuel yourself before you hit the fitness center for a gym workout or any other session, while others emphasize refueling after exercise as it allows the body to recover and get bigger. The fact is that both are equally important to reap the health benefits of exercise.
In our fast-paced lives, there’s hardly any time to workout or to eat healthy. Ironically, these are the two things that can help us stay healthy. FITPASS along with its complementary service FITFEAST allows you to work out on your terms and eat healthy with suggestions from certified nutritionists. Whether you go for Zumba classes or a gym workout, get customized daily diets to reach your goals on time.
What to Eat Before a Workout
Getting the best workout benefits requires you to eat something before exercising. Feeling dizzy, lethargic, nauseated, or lightheaded are symptoms of not eating enough before a gym workout or a HIIT session. These things might lead to reduced performance or even injuries.
Now it might be asking for too much considering there’s hardly any time after work hours to squeeze in a snack. And most don’t even have breakfast, let alone having a snack as well. Now, the good news is – it’s alright to work out on an empty stomach unless you have blood sugar issues. Nonetheless, you can have a protein bar and drink water before, during, and after the workout.
Plenty of Water
Stay hydrated no matter what you do or when you do it. The color of your urine is an obvious sign – lemon-colored is well-hydrated and darker means dehydration. Your water needs differ from everyone and anyone you know. Have a glass of water an hour before the workout and another 10-20 minutes before. Dehydration causes cramps, spasms, or low energy. Sipping on water during the workout is recommended – a cup of water every 15-30 minutes, especially if you’re in between an intense workout. Experiment to find out your body’s needs.
Snack with Carbs
Carbs are transformed into glucose, which powers up the muscle cells and gives you enough energy to work out. Carbs are equal to energy, which is stored in the form of glycogen in the muscles. The energy is used up when you put your muscles to work. Therefore, having a snack with carbs before a workout allows you to get the benefits of exercise; the extra glucose takes care of the glycogen stores and prevents you from feeling weak and tired. Foods like a piece of toast, oatmeal, a piece of fruit, granola bar, a rice cake, etc. will do the trick.
Snack with Protein
Consuming protein is essential before a workout, especially if you’re hoping to get the benefits of weight training in time. Lifting weights and other strength training exercises lead to minor tears in the muscle fibers, which are repaired when you rest. Simultaneously, the muscles get bigger and stronger and all of this needs protein. Choose nuts, Greek yogurt, a hard-boiled egg, slice of milk (soy or regular) or a slice of turkey. However, don’t overeat, as that will only make you feel uneasy during the workout
Time your Snack
Ideally, you should eat something as early as 3 hours or as late as 30 minutes before the workout. However, what you consume in both cases will differ to allow your body to digest before you go to the gym. Like every other thing, you’ll have to find out what suits you best. Working out in the morning means you won’t be able to have a full meal before; a small snack or mini-breakfast should do. Have a meal 2-3 hours before or have a small snack 30 minutes before a workout in the evening. Half a portion of a protein-packed green smoothie half an hour before and the rest later can provide the best benefits of exercise.
Pre Workout Snack Ideas
- Greek Yogurt. Add berries or granola
- Dried fruits with nuts
- Granola bar
- Oatmeal with fruit
- Apple or pear with peanut butter
- Rice cake with peanut butter
- Baked Salmon with brown rice and roasted veggies
What to Eat After a Workout
Unlike before a workout, you cannot skip eating after a workout and that should be like a commandment for you. The body needs calories after it has burned up most of them from the store. For speedy muscle recovery, you must consume protein, especially after a weight-training workout. Plus, the neurons need minerals to work properly, which are lost during a workout. Not eating after a workout will invariably lead to fatigue and low blood sugar. This hinders your body’s repair processes. The benefits of a workout are hard to get if you don’t eat properly after a workout.
Drinking water or other fluids is more important after a workout than eating right away. Having stopped sweating doesn’t mean that you don’t need more water. The length and the intensity of the workout determine the amount of water you need. The environment and your physiology also play important roles. However, there’s no need to get into the scientific details. Go with what you feel. Or if you really want to go by the book, check your weight before and after the workout and drink at least half a liter of water for every half a kilogram of weight you lose.
The body uses up the stored energy during a gym workout or any other workout for that matter and needs replenishing. If you worked out particularly hard, chances are that you might feel low on energy if you don’t eat something soon. In case you can’t have a full meal right away, have a snack ASAP and follow it with a proper meal within a couple of hours.
Have Foods that contain Carbs & Proteins
As mentioned earlier, you will use up most of the glycogen stored in your muscles while also tearing muscle fibers. To repair them and restore the glycogen, you must have something rich in complex carbs and protein. Have quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread, nuts, etc. for complex carbs and tofu, beans, fish, chicken, etc. for protein.
Extra Protein for Weight Training
You need an extra bit of protein if you indulge in weight training exercises for 45-90 minutes. The extra bit of protein can help build muscles. Don’t go gorging on whey protein or eating non-vegetarian foods in inordinate quantities without consultation. Consult nutritionists if you have doubts.
Post Workout Snack Ideas
- 1-2 hard-boiled eggs and a slice of toast (whole wheat)
- 1 slice of toast (whole wheat) with peanut butter (1 tablespoon) and 1 banana
- A cup of chocolate milk
- 2 crackers with peanut butter (1 tablespoon)
Post Workout Meal Ideas
- Protein-packed green smoothie (2 cups of green veggies + 1 cup of fruit + protein powder)
- 1 omelet with veggies, avocado, and roasted potatoes (1/2 cup)
- Steamed fish (120 grams) with spinach and sweet potato (baked)
- Whole-wheat pita with grilled veggies and hummus (2 tablespoons)
Everyone’s body’s needs are different. You should experiment (not too much) to find out what kind of foods satiate your nutritional needs. It is not advisable to make too many changes on the day of the competition; limit them to training. Most of all, enjoy your gym workouts or any other classes you choose and what you eat.
Pushkar Garg is a blogger who specializes in research and likes to share information in a manner that makes sense to every reader. He writes health & wellness pieces for fitness-based brand FITPASS. Pushkar is a football fanatic and swears by the benefits of exercising and eating healthy to stay fit. He graduated in Political Science (Honors).
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