What Foods Do You Need to Fuel Your Workout?
The same way you would gas up the car before going on a long drive, you need to fuel up your body before a workout. Timing is a critical factor, however. Eating too much of the wrong food can make you feel sluggish or upset your stomach. After you finish, you need to replace the energy you lost. Continue reading to learn which foods are right for before and after you exercise.
Go for the Carbs Two Hours Before
Riska Platt, M.S., R.D, a nutrition consultant for Mount Sinai Medical Center, recommends that you eat some healthy carbohydrates about two hours before you start working out. Carbs provide the energy your muscles need. Examples of healthy, easily digestible carbs include:
- Whole wheat toast
- Fat-free yogurt
- Whole grain pasta
- Brown rice
Your goal is to create a balanced meal that is high in carbohydrates but low in protein, fat, and fiber. Saturated fats and protein are more difficult to digest and metabolising them will use energy that you need for exercise. A balanced meal might look like:
- Peanut butter and honey on whole wheat toast with a fat-free yogurt
- A turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich with a side of fruit
- Oatmeal with brown sugar and almonds, milk, and a banana
Eating a few hours before your workout gives you time to digest the food, so you don’t exercise on a full stomach.
If you need a pick-me-up just a few minutes before you start, how about a piece of fruit? It’s a source of healthy sugar that will give you a boost, and it’s portable enough that you can take it with you whether you’re heading out for a walk, work or the gym.
Load up Again After Your Workout
It’s just as important to fuel your body post-workout. This is the time when your body is healing from the stress of the exercise and replenishing lost nutrients. Eating is a crucial part of this recovery cycle.
Start with fluids. Ideally, you should drink water before, during, and after you exercise. You can flavour it to add vitamins and minerals. Add a splash of orange juice because it provides essential vitamins and carbohydrates. Just stir ¼ cup of OJ into your water for a drink that is both refreshing and healthy. Be sure to use 100% juice and not a concentrate that’s full of sugar.
Exercise burns a lot of carbohydrates, so replenish that supply 20 to 60 minutes after your workout. This is the time your muscles store both carbs and protein to aid in recovery. Choose foods and beverages such as:
- Peanut butter
- Graham crackers
- Whole wheat breads, like a pita
- Low-fat chocolate milk
Protein is the body’s building block and a necessary part of muscle recovery, including the most important muscle in your body – your heart. Lean meats and plant proteins will help rebuild damaged muscle, so add some turkey or chicken to a whole wheat pita. If you prefer a vegetarian diet, focus on plant proteins like nuts, seeds, and legumes for post-workout energy.
What About Water?
Water doesn’t provide fuel, but it’s an essential part of your workout diet. Whether you train like a world-class athlete or just hit the gym to burn calories, you lose water through breath and sweat. It’s easy to become dehydrated, which works against everything you’re trying to achieve with your fitness plan. Plus, water helps you burn energy more efficiently.
How much water do you need?
- Drink 450 to 590 mL one to two hours before your workout
- Drink 240 to 300 mL 15 minutes before your workout
- Drink 240 ounces mL 15 minutes during your routine
- Drink 590 or more mL with your post-workout meal
The better you feel when you exercise, the more likely you are to keep doing it. The combination of the right food at the right time and plenty of water gives you the fuel you need for an effective, energetic workout, so you’ll feel fit enough to want to do it again tomorrow.
WebMD, Water Tips for Efficient Exercise
WebMD, Food to Fuel Your Workout, Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, April 8, 2004
American Heart Association, Food as Fuel – Before, During and After Workouts, Jan. 2015Author Bio: Darla Ferrara is a full-time freelance writer, artist, and award-winning author. With an academic and vocational background in healthcare, Darla creates informative and engaging content for readers about current health trends.
- Darla Ferrara