The Best Pre- & Post-Workout Foods

Deciding what to eat before and after your workout can be a daunting task. Eating too much food before a workout can make you feel like you're dragging at the gym and may cause nausea or cramping. On the other hand, eating too little or not at all before a workout can leave you feeling weak and tired due to low blood sugar. Just as important is what you should eat after your workout, as it determines how well your body recovers from exercise.

A bowl of oatmeal next to bowls of fresh fruit. Credit: View Stock/View Stock/Getty Images

Pre-Workout Meal

Plan on eating 30 minutes to two hours before working out, depending on how large a meal you have. This is important because you want the energy from the meal you just ate without it sitting heavy in your stomach while you are working out. According to Discovery Health, a high-carbohydrate, low-fat meal that has a moderate amount of protein is easy to digest and will help you maintain your blood sugar. Examples of a great pre-workout meal include oatmeal or whole-grain toast, an egg and a piece of fruit or a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread, which has just the right amount of carbohydrates and protein. Depending on what time of the day you workout, you may just need a light snack, such as a yogurt and a piece of fruit.

Considerations

Determining the perfect pre-workout meal for you takes trial and error. According to Discovery Health, some people can eat 30 minutes before their workout and feel great, while other people might feel nauseous and sluggish. The MayoClinic.com recommends keeping a food diary to keep track of what you eat, when you eat and how you felt during that particular workout. This allows you to find what works best for your body.

Post-Workout Meal

According to the MayoClinic.com, during the first one to two hours after your workout, you should eat a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein. The carbohydrates will help replenish your energy, and the protein will help rebuild muscle that has been broken down during your workout, especially if you are doing resistance training. Examples of post-workout meals include chicken with rice and steamed vegetables or a tuna sandwich on whole-grain bread with light mayonnaise.

Hydrate

It is important to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration while working out. The body uses water to transport glucose to the cells and to remove waste from the cells. Being hydrated means your body will be able to maintain the physical activity needed for exercise. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should drink 2 to 3 cups of water before and after your workout and about 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. If you are exercising for more than an hour at a time, a sports drink may be a good idea to replace electrolytes lost during sweating.

Fitness Goals

According to the MayoClinic.com, depending on what your fitness goals are, you may need to modify your diet. For example, if you are trying to put on muscle, you will want to be eating more protein. If your goal is running a marathon, you will want to increase your carbohydrate intake. Despite what your fitness goals are, it is important to listen to your body. Since everyone is different, not everything will work for everyone. You know your body best, so listen to what it has to say. You should also consult your physician before starting any exercise routine and ask him for suggestions as to what to incorporate in your diet.

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