Workouts need fuel for successful execution, and when you take in that fuel can make or break the effort. Eat too close to a jog and suffer stomach cramps that slow you down. But, deny yourself calories and you might just not have enough energy to get up and go.
Of course, eating after your workout is also important, as it helps set you up for success in future efforts. You need to refill lost energy stores and support muscle recovery.
Therefore, it's often important to have a little something both before and after a jog, rather than choosing one or the other. How much food you eat and exactly when you eat it depends on several factors, such as the time and effort you put into your jog and the timing of your other meals.
Read More: Normal Speed for Jogging
A meal three to four hours before your jog should sustain your energy so you can go the distance. For example, if you go run at 11 a.m., breakfast at 8 a.m. should hold you. That meal should contain carbohydrates, such as toast or oatmeal, and a little protein and healthy fat.
You might consider having a pre-jog snack if it's been more than four hours since your last meal. If you jog early in the morning before breakfast, you'd benefit from a small snack before you go run. If you had an early lunch and plan to run at 5 p.m., you'd also need a light snack before you go.
Try a banana, a slice of toast with a light smear of peanut butter, a few ounces of a smoothie or half of an energy bar. Eat this 30 to 60 minutes before you exercise to ensure it's somewhat digested.
If your jog lasted 45 minutes or longer, get some quality food into your system soon after you finish to maximize the benefits to muscle and energy recovery. Shorter, minimally intense workouts don't usually need any special food — you can just wait until your next meal.
Post workout options should include a combination of carbohydrates and protein. You don't need a ton of calories in this meal, however. Some valid options include:
- half of a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread
- plain yogurt with diced fruit
- a smoothie made with banana, milk and almond butter
- 2 to 3 ounces of chicken breast with brown rice
- a glass of milk with a handful of berries
Of course, if your next meal is just an hour or so after your jog, you can wait until then to refuel.
Considerations Before You Chow Down
Ask yourself if your jog was an easy effort for you. If you plan for it to be short, maybe around 30 minutes, or casual for you, don't be too concerned about pre or post nutrition — just move.
If the main reason you're jogging is to lose weight and fat, you don't need to eat for recovery afterward. When your priority is fat loss, not performance, extra post-workout nutrition will only infringe on the caloric deficit necessary to lose pounds.
Read More: The Best Pre- and Post-Workout Meals