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WHAT TO EAT BEFORE & AFTER YOU WORKOUT

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LET’S CLEAR THE AIR!

…ONLY workout while fasted!

…ALWAYS eat protein before you lift weights!

…DON’T forget to carb load after your workout!

…EAT a whole chicken to maximize gains!

Say what?!!

With so much conflicting information surrounding what you should eat before and after you workout, I am here to set the record straight.

Now, you may be wondering, “Why does what I eat before or after I exercise matter?!”

That is a great question!

When it comes to your performance when exercising (energy, focus, strength, endurance, stamina, etc.) and body composition (your body’s ratio of fat:lean muscle), what you eat is important for a number of reasons, especially when it comes to hitting your macronutrients! Macronutrients are your lean proteins, heart healthy fat and smart carbohydrates.

Here’s why macronutrients are so important:

  • Proteins: Repair muscle tissue and promotes muscle growth.

  • Carbohydrates: Provide energy and assist with recovery.

  • Fats: Help slow digestion, provides vitamins and minerals vital to overall health.

To help you understand what to be eating before and after your workout, I’ve compiled the following (general) guidelines as a baseline for framing each meal and snack.

**Note: You know your body best and need to do what you feel makes you perform at your best! No two people are alike – we all have different needs and goals. If you are an endurance athlete or, training for a specific event, your needs will look a bit different.


WHAT TO EAT PRE-WORKOUT

Let’s start with your meals prior to exercising. There are three options to maximize your performance and it ALL comes down to personal preference.

#1. FULL, BALANCED MEAL: The first option is having a complete, balanced meal 2-3 hours before your workout. To be complete, it must include contain a lean protein, SMART carbs, heart healthy fats and of course, vegetables! Along with your food choices, portion sizes should be monitored as well.

  • Men: aim for 2 palm-sized portions of lean protein, 2 cupped handfuls of SMART carbs, 2 thumb-sized portions of heart healthy fats and 2 fists of vegetables.

  • Women: aim for 1 palm-sized portion of lean protein, 1 cupped handful of SMART carbs, 1 thumb-sized portion of heart healthy fats and 1 fist of vegetables.


#2. SNACK! If eating that full meal before exercising isn’t your jam, opt for a smaller meal or snack closer to your workout. Since you’ll have less time to digest your food, be mindful of how this makes you feel. When choosing your snack:

  • Aim for a mix of two of the macronutrients- few examples:

    • Lean protein and a healthy fat: protein shake (protein power mixed with water, almond milk or milk) and nuts / almonds, hard-boiled egg and cheese, Greek yogurt and peanut /almond butter

    • SMART carb and a healthy fat: banana and peanut butter, slice of toast and smashed avocado, apple and cheese

    • Lean protein and SMART carb: rolled turkey breast and fruit, Greek yogurt and berries, protein shake (protein powder mixed with frozen banana).

Be sure to choose foods that are easier to digest to avoid an stomach upset while working out.


#3. WATER! For some, water may be the preferred “pre-workout” and typically is enough. However, if you are working out for a longer than normal duration or, in hot or humid temperatures, be sure to drink extra water as well as other drinks containing electrolytes to avoid dehydration.

Like I said before, no two people are the exact same and this will be a process of trial and error until you figure out what makes you feel your best. As you try each strategy, take note of how you feel, what you’re eating and how you perform. Use this as the framework for deciding when and what to eat pre-workout.


WHAT TO EAT POST-WORKOUT

So, you just finished exercising and are now wondering what you should be eating so nothing you just did gets “undone”. Here are general guidelines for helping your body recover and maximizing ALL of that time and effort spent working out:

Important: The meal you eat post-workout can help you recover, refuel, build muscle, and prepare you for your next workout. Once again, quality AND quantity both matter when choosing nutrient dense foods to properly fuel your body.

#1. PROTEIN! Protein is a vital component of your post-workout meal (read that again!). Eating protein after you’ve finished exercising helps to repair AND increase muscle tissue. A high-quality, complete protein should be added to your meal and ultimately consumed within two hours after exercise. By eating in this 2-hour window, you are helping expedite recovery. And remember, recovery is exactly what you want happening because it’s needed for your body to change in order to get results!

If your pre-workout meal was eaten several hours prior to your workout, aim to have your post-workout meal within one hour. Same goes for those who workout in a fasted state before breakfast. Time is of the essence!

Examples of lean proteins:

  • Beef, Pork, Chicken, Turkey

  • Halibut, Salmon, Scallops, Shrimp, Tuna

  • Eggs, Egg Whites

  • Cottage Cheese, Plain Greek Yogurt

  • Whey Based Powders

  • Beans, Edamame, Lentils

  • Quinoa, Spelt, Teff, Wild Rice

  • Plant Based Powders


 #2. SMART CARBS! These carbs are necessary for replenishing your glycogen stores. Glycogen is stored glucose and carbohydrates found in your muscles, liver and brain and is super important because it provides your body with a readily available source of energy! So, if you want to be ready to kick a$$ in your next workout, you better refuel!

Examples of SMART carbs:

  • Whole grains

  • Brown and wild rice

  • Oats

  • Quinoa

  • Fruits

  • Sweet and regular potatoes

  • Beans (i.e. black, kidney chickpea, etc.)

  • Lentils


#3. LIQUID NUTRITION! If you are the type who does NOT feel hungry after exercising, no problem! This is where liquid nutrition is helpful. Protein shakes are the perfect meal if you don’t want to sit down to a full plate post workout. You can easily get all of the necessary macronutrients and portion sizes into one single shake. Plus, they are very refreshing!


While pre and post-workout nutrition is not one size fits all, use the above examples for figuring out what works best for you to get the most out of your workout and yes, better results! Learn to understand what your body needs needs for feeling it’s best and prepare meals and snacks accordingly.

As always, prioritize real, nutrient-dense foods to guarantee you are getting the proper balance of essential vitamins and nutrients. After all, you worked hard during your workout and absolutely deserve to reap the benefits by properly fueling your body and showing it some well-deserved love and care!

Like I always say, food is FUEL and this nutrition stuff is about learning how to proper fuel your body! To help get you started, here is a quick and easy recipe to have on hand to help fuel before or after a workout:

No-Bake Energy Bars

  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats

  • ⅔ cup shredded coconut

  • ½ cup nut butter

  • ½ cup ground flaxseed

  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips

  • ½ cup honey

  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients until combined.

  2. Press into a lightly greased 8×8 pan and distribute evenly.

  3. Refrigerate for several hours and cut into 8 bars.


Stay Fueled

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