The right foods before and after exercise can boost your results. There are many opinions as to what you should eat before, during, and after your workouts. What you eat before your workout is important. If you’re going to put the machine that is your body through the paces, you want to fuel it first with proper nutrition. When you’re done with your workout, refueling with a combination of protein and carbs can help you rebuild muscle.

CoachCare Blog: What To Eat Before And After A Workout To Maximize Results

The Importance of Eating Before Your Workout

Whether you eat or don’t eat before exercise, research shows that the body burns the same amount of fat. However, you can actually cause muscle loss if you regularly workout on an empty stomach. When you’re hungry, your body goes into survival mode and draws protein from muscle instead of from your kidneys and liver, where the body normally looks for protein. When this happens, you lose muscle mass, which can ultimately slow your metabolism and make it harder for you to lose weight. Plus, if you exercise on an empty stomach, you’re not giving yourself the fuel you need to power through an intense training session. We recommend tracking your food intake with a meal journal app to make sure you are getting the best results.

Eat Healthy Carbs Before a Workout

Aim to have a snack or meal 1 to 3 hours before your workout. You can have tummy troubles if you chow down right before. That’s because more blood goes to your muscles during exercise, leaving less for digestion. Not eating enough before a workout can make you dizzy, lightheaded, nauseated, or lethargic. It can also make you more likely to injure yourself. Carbs = energy. Eating healthy carbohydrates such as whole-grain cereals (with low-fat or skim milk), whole-wheat toast (without the fatty cream cheese), low-fat or fat-free yogurt, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, fruits and vegetables is very beneficial. Another great option is whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and banana slices. The key is to have a mixed bag of complex and simple ones so that the release of energy during your workout is slow and steady throughout your routine. Whole-wheat toast with fruit gives you both types of carbs with the bonus of being super easy to digest. Complex carbs will keep your motor humming, while the fruit adds an extra kick of energy. For those training for a race, bananas are perfect in raising potassium levels, which drop when you sweat a lot.

Also, make sure to hydrate with water. While there is no one-size-fits-all method to determining fluid needs during exercise, a good place to start is drinking about 2 cups of water 2 to 3 hours before exercise and 1 cup of water 10 to 20 minutes before working out. The goal here is to minimize dehydration — which can cause low energy, and muscle cramps or spasms — without drinking too much water.

Stay Hydrated During Your Workout

Whether you’re a professional athlete who trains for several hours or you have a low to moderate routine, keep your body hydrated with small, frequent sips of water. You don’t need to eat during a workout that’s an hour or less. But, for longer, high intensity, vigorous workouts, eat every half hour 50-100 calories of carbohydrates such as raisins, an energy bar or banana.

Refuel Your Body After a Workout with Carbs and Protein

After your workout, it’s time to refuel with fluids, carbohydrates, and protein. You need to eat after a workout. Period. Eating after a workout is all about replacing the calories you used up. For one, it’s important to replenish the glycogen that has been depleted during your exercise. Secondly, eating protein after a workout is a must for a speedy muscle recovery, particularly after weight training. Plus, food contains electrolytes (which are minerals that your neurons need to fire properly), which you lose when you sweat. Especially if you just worked out really hard, your body has just used up the energy it needs to function at max capacity.

Ideally, you want to refuel within about 30 minutes of working out to get those energy stores back up. According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine, consuming protein and a little carbohydrate is best immediately after exercise. To help speed up recovery, maximize exercise benefits, and help maintain lean muscle to aid in weight loss, we would recommend eating the following; a protein shake made with banana, protein powder, almond milk, and hemp seeds. Chocolate milk has the ideal ratio of carbs to protein – about 4 to 1 – to refuel and rebuild muscles. One study found that athletes who had a glass after a workout recovered faster than those who had a carb-only sports beverage. Plus, chocolate milk is 90% water, so it replaces some of the fluids you lose during exercise. Another great option is chicken, brown rice, and veggies. There’s a reason skinless chicken breast is thought of as a slim-down food: half of one packs in 27 grams of protein in only 142 calories. It also has a lot of vitamin B-6, a nutrient important for your immune system. Serve it with brown rice and veggies for the right combination of carbs and nutrients!

Remember To Do What Works Best for You

The beauty of it all is that everyone’s body is different and will have specific needs and preferences. It’s important to realize that these are general guidelines. We have different digestive systems and a lot depends on what kind of workout you’re doing. You can try different approaches and track these approaches through a meal journal app such as CoachCare.

So, do what works best for you. Know that what you put in your body is as important as you what you do with your body. Both are crucial to keeping your engine performing at its best!

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