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Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a weight loss lifestyler, a nutrient-rich diet is essential to fuel your body during workouts and to aid in post-workout recovery. Proper nutrition can maximize the hard work you’re putting in at the gym or outdoors. No matter your sweat session of choice, optimal nutrition can help with performance and results.
What you eat before a workout can be as important as the actual workout. Energize your body to prepare for the work it’s about to do.
Carbohydrate is the body’s primary source of energy. It provides fuel to push limits and to exercise at maximum capacity. Without the proper energy, you may feel sluggish and weak during your workout. A snack or mini meal with carbohydrates will help you excel. It’s also a good idea to include some protein to help prepare muscles for the rebuilding that happens after your workout. You want to avoid fat and too much fiber, as those nutrients will slow digestion. You don’t want digestive issues interfering with your workout goals.
Try eating a snack 30 minutes to three hours before your workout to get the most out of it. This will allow your body time to digest and support you through your workout. Experiment with different types of food and the optimum times to consume your pre-workout snack to figure out what works best for your body.
Healthy Snack Choices
Don’t forget to drink water beforehand to start the hydration process. Try to consume about a cup of water about 20 minutes before your workout. It’s also important to drink one to two cups of water for every hour of exercise to maintain performance.
After you’ve worked up a sweat, it’s time to eat the right nutrients to restore your body’s depleted energy levels, repair your tired muscles, build muscles, and rehydrate after sweating. Adequate nutrition after your workout will also help enhance performance during your next workout.
Your post-workout snack should include carbohydrates and protein. Your body uses energy to power through the workout, and that exerted energy needs to be replenished through carbohydrates. Protein helps your body build and repair. It’s essential for a speedy recovery, muscle growth, and less muscle soreness.
There is a window of opportunity to replenish and build during the post-workout period. Aim to eat 15 minutes to an hour after your workout for optimal muscle repair and recovery.
Hydration is important after your workout to avoid dehydration. You want to rehydrate as soon as possible to replenish lost fluids from sweating.
Smoothies are an easy way to combine much-needed carbohydrate and protein after your activity. Plus, they help with hydration!
The foods you eat before and after your workouts are just as important as the workouts themselves. By feeding your body the nutrients it needs for fuel and recovery, you can improve your performance and your overall health.
Laura Hershey, MBA, RD has been a registered dietitian for over 16 years. Laura specializes in nutrition communications, marketing and education. She enjoys translating scientific information into easily digestible nutrition messages. She is passionate about improving the health of the population through consumer outreach programs.
Laura is active in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and currently is a Legislative Ambassador for the Los Angeles District. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Pepperdine University and completed her dietetic internship at Loma Linda University.