Just as a snack before a workout can give you energy and stamina, foods consumed post workout should replenish your energy and hydration. Sports nutritionists opine that feeding the body after your workout is even more important than before. The body has to be fed right to help repair muscle tissues and replenish glycogen stores, which are depleted after a strenuous workout.
While the American Dietetic Association recommends reducing calories as an effective way to lose weight, maintain a food record to effectively plan your calories intake throughout a day.
Keep post workout meal between 200-400 calories and 6 to 18 g protein. For instance, a 1500 calorie weight plan would include two meals each of 500 calories and two mini meals each 250 calories. Of this, one mini meal could be post workout.
Pre workout meal
A pre workout meal depends on when you are going to eat it. For instance, if you are an early riser, and go to the gym of the way to work, then you may not have enough time between leaving home and arriving at the gym to really digest a full breakfast.
Hence, a perfect pre workout snack should be really light. On the other hand, if you are working out in the middle of the afternoon, plan your lunchtime so that you will have a couple of hours to digest food before hitting the gym.
If the workout is closer to food consumption, then it is better to focus on carbs rather than fat or protein. Carbs digest easily while fat and protein take longer. If you exercise when full, you are likely to land up with cramps or indigestion.
For instance, those planning to run a marathon on a Sunday afternoon usually eat a huge dinner on Saturday night. A three mile jog early morning can be embarked with an orange eaten about 20 minutes earlier.
The goal of pre workout meal is to prevent low blood sugar and feelings of hunger and provide energy for working muscles.
Pre workout snacks
- Take some hearts of celery and fill in the groove with almond or peanut butter. The celery has fiber and nutrients and it has only 6 calories per medium stalk. The butter has protein and fat. The overall calories are low but it provides slow release energy for a terrific workout.
- Apple with almonds is another perfect pre exercise snack. The sugar load is moderate and it contains valuable pectin fiber which slows the entrance of the sugar into the bloodstream. A dozen almonds add some fat and protein to an apple.
- Whey protein not only supports weight loss efforts, whey before exercise supports fat burning and helps with gaining and maintaining lean body mass. Whey protein shakes with either water or with frozen berries make for a delicious drink.
- Berries, especially blueberries are loaded with phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber and are low in sugar. Mix a bowl of berries with string cheese for the perfect pre workout snack. And this is an excellent source of calcium too.
- Turkey and grapes is a perfect match of protein and carbs. Four small slices of packaged turkey has less calories but 14 grams of proteins and a cup of grapes adds some carbs to the mix together with phytochemicals. It is good to go for fresh turkey whenever possible and choose red or purple grapes as they have more antioxidants.
- Yogurt parfait combines natural unsweetened yogurt, strawberries, blueberries and granola.
- Crackers with natural peanut butter.
- Cook oatmeal and sweeten with honey and berries. The oatmeal should be prepared at home and not the sugar-packed microwave pouches.
- Brown rice with your favorite lean meat and steamed veggies work well as pre workout afternoon meal.
- Hard boiled egg is another portable protein that combines with any fruit such as an apple.
Foods to eat before a workout
- Don't opt for fiber before you get going to the gym.
- Avoid foods that give you gas.
- Don't eat a huge meal before heading for a workout.
- Nibble on dark chocolate as its bioactive compounds tyramine and phenylethylamine can make for an energy boost.
- Pack in potassium and digestible carbohydrates with a banana. This fruit gets a lot of flak for being a high calorie food but its valuable potassium helps maintain nerve and muscle function.
- A convenient cup of yogurt is another energy kick for your workout. Your enzymes are activated by the magnesium it provides.
- Cook up a bowl of oatmeal and fortify yourself with low glycemic fiber. This ensures slow release into your blood stream making for a steady level of energy throughout your workout. Gain the advantage of the B vitamins too.
Avoid the following foods post workout
- Avoid too many greasy fatty foods - donuts, hot dogs, nachos, French fries, chips and other fatty choices - they may taste good but they refuel muscles poorly.
- Avoid ice creams, cookies and other goodies that tend to offer more fat than carbs.
- Avoid meats; rather take pasta, potato rolls and other carbs at the recovery dinner. Meat can leave your muscles unfed.
- Dieters need to refuel after workout with adequate carbs.
Recovery diet and training program
An optimal recovery diet becomes even more pertinent if you plan to work out more than once daily.
- Muscles need carbohydrates to make glycogen. Focus the recovery meal on grains, breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables. As glycogen cannot be made from protein and fat, cereals which are a source of carb is a better choice than a cheese omelet.
- Protein along with carbs enhances the recovery process.
- Quench your thirst with a fruit smoothie or some chocolate milk.
- Keep sipping fluids. If your urine is dark, it means it is concentrated with metabolic wastes and it is a sign that you have not yet reached water balance.
To quote from a University of Michigan researcher Jeffery F Horowitz, '... exercise doesn't occur in a vacuum and it is very important to look at both the effects of exercise and what you're eating after exercise'. Top of the Page: Pre Workout Snack