Are you someone who works out? Do you often wonder if you are eating the right foods before and after your workout? With the wealth of information out there, it can be very confusing! But, I’m here to give you a few tips to help make sure you are fueling up properly when you are exercising.
Just a little disclaimer before we get started: all my advice is focused around eating real food.
Sometimes when it comes to body transformation, supplements help to make those changes you are looking for, and that is where a trainer who is certified in sports nutrition can really help. But, for most of us, eating the proper foods before and after workouts and keeping hydrated is all we need to feel and look healthy and get the results we are looking for!
Fueling your body with the right nutrients prior to exercise will give you the energy and strength you need to perform better. Your focus should be on a balanced, whole foods diet with the amount of carbs, protein, and fat that make you feel good.
Timing: An important aspect of pre-workout nutrition is the timing of when you eat. The best time to eat a meal is 2+ hours before your workout. This helps prevent stomach discomfort during exercise and ensures your body is fueled and ready to go. If you eat 45-60 minutes before working out, choose foods that are small, simple to digest, and provide instant fuel!
- Cottage Cheese
- Greek Yogurt
- Fruit + nut and seed butter
- Bone broth
- Collagen peptides or collagen water
- Sourdough toast + avocado or nut and seed butter
- Ham or turkey and cheese roll-up
Caffeine: Drinking tea or coffee prior to your workout helps to improve performance, increase strength and power, helps to reduce feelings of fatigue and stimulates fat burning. Caffeine usually peaks 90 minutes after consumption but is still effective even when consumed 15-60 minutes prior. Remember: read labels when consuming canned or bottled coffees, teas, and energy drinks. They can contain incredibly large amounts of sugar which can negate the positive effects of working out.
Hydration: Keeping yourself hydrated is incredibly important before, during, and after your workout. Your body needs water to function and good hydration has been shown to sustain and even enhance performance, while dehydration has been linked to decreases in performance. Adding sodium to your water helps to improve fluid balance.
My recommendation is to consume a minimum of half your body weight in ounces. Example: if you weigh 160 pounds, you should be drinking at least 80 ounces of water a day. Add a pinch of sea salt to your water bottle to help retain fluids and replace sodium lost during exercise.
Your post workout fuel is equally if not more important than your pre-workout fuel. Here is a guide on what you should eat to help maximize your efforts.
To understand how the right foods can help you after exercise, it’s important to understand how your body is affected by exercise. During physical activity your muscles use up their muscle glycogen stores for fuel (these are sources of carbohydrates). Some proteins in your muscles also get broken down and damaged (more so when you are doing resistance training, and the more resistance (heavier weight) the more muscle breakdown).
After your workout, your body is trying to rebuild its glycogen stores (needs carbs to do this) and repair and regrow the muscle proteins (needs protein to do this, and this is how we build stronger muscles).
Timing: Eat your post-workout meal soon after exercising, ideally within a few hours, and be sure to focus on healthy carbs and proteins to refuel, repair, and rebuild.
- Sweet potatoes
- Fruits such as bananas, pineapple, and berries
- Whole grain bread
- Beans and lentils
- Chocolate milk
- Greek yogurt or Snowville yogurt (higher in protein)
- Tuna or salmon
- Cottage cheese
- Collagen peptides
- Nuts and seeds
- Nut and seed butters
Electrolyte Replacement: The more you sweat the more electrolytes you lose. It is important to replace lost electrolytes just as it is important to replace the water you lost. If you sweat a lot, and you can’t quench your thirst with water, then you might want to try a natural electrolyte drink. Nature’s sports drink is coconut water. It has electrolytes, water, and a little bit of sugar to help replenish your glycogen stores. Another great option is NOOMA electrolyte drinks which are made with coconut water, organic ingredients, and no added sugars, or Nuun electrolyte tablets which you just drop into 16 ounces of water and let dissolve.
About Organic Beth
Beth Blessing (Organic Beth) has a Masters in Nutrition and is the co-founder of Green Bean Delivery. She is a mother of three who loves supporting family farms and searching for unique, artisanal products. Her goal is to help others eat better and live a more natural, holistic life through healthy recipes and practical tips.