What To Eat Before, During, And After Exercise

Author: Shannon Miller Lifestyle

Overall, eating plans are great, but what do I eat for optimal performance and results BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER my workouts?  There is a relationship between eating and exercise.

What to eat BEFORE a typical workout

For a typical, physical workout, you may need a little fuel to get you through.

You should not plan on working out right after major meal times, but maybe after a light snack or a way to amp your energy a little to get you through.

For example, if you exercise first thing in the morning, then you may need a little something for instant energy. Your body really will not burn calories to its best ability until after you have eaten something that day. The exception would be a YOGA workout. Yogis should exercise on an empty stomach. This being said, yoga should not be done while you are hungry and weak, either. So, in general, do your yoga before breakfast or 1-2 hours after eating.

Do you need to worry about eating the night before a vigorous workout? Well, it depends on the workout. If you are running a race early in the morning that will take you an hour or more, you may want to have a full, carbohydrate-rich meal the night before. An example would be a cup of rice covered with vegetables. Add a protein for balance. If your race is later the next day, or you don’t feel you will need the extra carb stores to make it through your race (like a friendly 5K), carbo loading or a big meal are not necessary. Just eat as you normally would.

Do you need a snack break DURING your workout?

Generally, most people will not need a snack break during their workout.

Most of us exercise briefly enough to not run into a snack need during that time. There are a couple of exceptions. One may be that you are diabetic or have a medical condition requiring food or sugars during exercise. The other would be that you are an extreme athlete, meaning that you play a sport or are involved in an endurance activity that keeps you moving for more than 2 hours.

Acceptable snack foods would be:

  • Simple fruits, accompanied by a handful of raw nuts
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • A simple snack bar, such as Natural Plus Energy Bars.

Eating AFTER exercise is very important.

Plan on eating pretty shortly, usually within the first hour after a typical workout or exercise session.

Your after exercise meal or snack should be well balanced, including the following:

  • 1 fruit or vegetable
  • 1 portion of lean protein
  • 1 whole grain portion
  • a little bit of good fats

Whether that is a snack or meal depends on the time of day and your hunger level, but either choice should be well balanced.  Because your body has an increased metabolic rate for several hours after exercise, it will make good use of these foods, using what it needs and burning some excess.

Bonus Health Question: Do you know what the best overall recovery drink is?

Chocolate milk.

This, according to an Indiana University Study, chocolate milk is the perfect recovery drink because of the instant sugars to replace carbohydrates, the protein source, and the small amount of fats balances the nutrients.

SML TIP:  Eating a little bit throughout your day is important to keep your energy level, maintain metabolism, and balance your blood sugar. Keep in mind that too many calories leads to body weight gain, so how much you eat proves as important as how often.

Sources: ACE Fitness and Mayo Clinic.
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