When preparing to workout, you’re likely completely focused on the exercise to come.  But a good workout is more than just the physical movement.  Many people miss the most important ingredient in a successful workout –  nutrition.  When challenging your body with an intense workout, you must fuel the engine properly.  This includes being mindful of what you are eating before and after training to optimize the time you spend working hard.

Pre-workout nutrition
Ideally, you should fuel 1-3 hours prior to a workout.  This should include a carbohydrate and a protein source.  Carbohydrates are the fuel for your engine so your body can get going and stay going.  Protein is what repairs and rebuilds the muscle. Examples of pre-workout snacks include:

  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Oatmeal with low-fat milk and fruit
  • Apple and peanut or almond butter
  • Handful of nuts and raisins (two parts raisins: one part nuts)

Even if you’re unable to handle that much food because it’s an early morning workout or you’re rushed to get to the gym on time, do your best to even squeeze in a small snack.

Post-workout nutrition
After a workout, what and when we eat can determine your ability to recover and to build muscle. When you exercise you use up the energy stored in our muscles, so it’s important to replenish what was lost. Consuming both carbs and protein immediately after a workout gives muscles the ability to replenish the energy they just used up through training and also helps them rebuild and repair. Try to eat within 30 minutes of completing an intense workout. Post-workout snacks could include:

  • Low-fat chocolate milk
  • Fruit smoothie with 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • Cereal with 8oz milk
  • Cheese or peanut butter sandwich

Remember, you need to find what works best for you.  This is a bit of a trial and error challenge until you find what your body can tolerate and what helps you achieve optimal performance.  But small tweaks and changes will eventually make a positive impact on your training.

For more information, consult with Lee Hyrkas, Registered Dietitian for Bellin Health Fitness.  Lee can provide you with more tips on meal planning, sport specific nutrition guidance, or general health and weight loss strategies. He can also serve as a resource for you to increase your knowledge on pre/post exercise nutrition and how it relates to you. Call (920) 430-4756 to schedule an appointment.



References: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics