The combination of a healthy diet and a more active lifestyle can really help you to lose more weight.
But, you can help to make the exercise you do work extra hard for you by eating the right foods before and after your workout.
Here we explain how long before and after exercise you should eat, plus the best pre-workout snacks to ensure you’re energized before your workout, and the right post-workout snacks to support muscle recovery and help you build a leaner body!
How Long Before A Workout Should I Eat?
Getting your pre-workout snacks right is a case of making sure not to eat too much before you exercise but also to ensure that you don’t leave it too long between your last meal or snack and when you work out.
Exercising on an empty stomach first thing in the morning or several hours after a meal means that your energy levels will be depleted before you can really give it your all during your workout.
What’s more, a study showed that when cyclists didn’t eat before they trained, ten percent of their calorie burn came from protein, including their own lean muscle mass – remember that you’re trying to build muscle to improve your metabolism, not eat away at it!
Of course, eating too much will leave you feeling sluggish and may even cause nausea if your workout is particularly strenuous or energetic.
This guideline explains how long you should eat before a workout depending on how much you’re eating:
Large meals: Eat these at least three to four hours before exercising
Small meals: Eat these two to three hours before exercising
Small snacks: Eat these an hour before exercising
Following this guide, if you intend to exercise first thing, then it would be a good idea to make your breakfast more of a pre-workout snack of around 100 – 200 calories, then eat a heartier snack after exercise.
If it’s been a while since your last meal, such as if you’re exercising after work, then one of these small pre-workout snacks will help you avoid burning out mid-exercise.
Perfect Pre-Workout Snacks
Ideal pre-workout snacks should be easy to digest and pack in lots of energy to keep you going throughout the exercise.
Here are four perfect pre-workout snacks:
Whole Grain Toast, Sliced Banana, and Cinnamon
This combination is perfect pre-workout as the whole grain toast gives you complex carbs to ensure a slow and steady release of energy, while the banana provides an extra kick of simple carbs to power your workout.
This snack is also easy to digest, and bananas are perfect before a workout as they help to top up potassium and electrolytes to help you avoid dehydration and muscle cramps.
For an added bonus, add a sprinkle of cinnamon, as this spice has been linked to stabilizing blood sugar.
Fruit with Greek Yogurt
Here the fruit can be whatever you like, but berries such as raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries work great with yogurt. Again, the fruit provides an energy hit, while Greek yogurt is packed with high-quality protein.
Before a workout, the protein doesn’t break down fast enough to be used as fuel a workout, so the carbs in the fruit give you the energy, and the protein is used later to prevent muscle damage.
Oatmeal with Fruit
Can you see a theme here?
Basically, fruit is perfect as a pre-workout snack, and it’s ideal paired with oatmeal on a cold morning before heading out to exercise – berries work well with oatmeal, as does a slice of apple or banana with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
The fiber in the fruit and in the oatmeal will gradually release energy into your bloodstream, meaning you’ll be able to give it your all during your workout.
Oats also contain B vitamins which help to convert carbohydrates into energy.
Sliced Apple with Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a winner before exercise as it squashes appetite and pumps your energy levels, plus the protein will help towards post-workout muscle repair. The apple will give you energy plus vitamins and fiber to keep hunger at bay until after your workout.
How Long After A Workout Should I Eat?
Many women skip post-workout snacks because they don’t want to ‘undo the calories they just burned off.’ Still, it’s important to eat after exercising to help refuel your body, promote muscle recovery, boost energy and build a leaner physique.
It’s best to wait at least 15 minutes after exercise to eat your post-workout snack, but you should aim to eat within two hours of your exercise session if possible, or sooner if it’s just a small snack.
Be sure to drink lots of water after exercising, though; even if you’ve drunk a lot throughout your workout, it’s at this post-workout stage when your body needs additional hydration to recuperate the nutrients and electrolytes which have been lost through sweating.
So what should you be eating to help your body recover post-exercise? Here are some great post-workout snacks and light meals for you to try:
Whole-Grain Toast with Peanut Butter
Two slices of whole-grain toast spread with peanut butter provide the ideal post-workout snack combination of 20 to 30 grams of carbohydrates and 10 to 15 grams of protein.
The carbs in the toast help to replenish energy stores, and the protein content of the peanut butter will help your muscles recover.
Vegetable Omelet with Avocado
Eggs are a great vegetarian source of protein for muscle growth.
Fill an omelet with your choice of veggies plus a few slices of avocado for added fiber and good fats, which will help your body to absorb the nutrients in your vegetables, such as weight-loss-boosting vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Pineapple with Cheese
Not only does pineapple contain vitamin C to promote muscle recovery, but it also contains bromelain, which helps with the digestion of protein and reduces muscle inflammation.
The cheese in this tasty combination provides calcium for strong bones as well as protein to help your muscles recover, plus fat to keep hunger at bay.
Parmesan is the best choice for cheese regarding a good protein-to-calorie ratio with 1g of protein per 10.6 calories.
Salmon with Sweet Potato
As well as the high protein content, salmon has bioactive peptides (small protein molecules), which play a role in inflammation reduction, helping to regulate insulin levels and support your joints after exercise.
Sweet potatoes, a top fat-burning food, pack in complex carbs to help restore the nutrient levels which get depleted after a workout.
What foods do you choose for your pre and post-workout snacks to ensure you get the best results from exercise? Let us know by commenting below!