A successful workout involves more than just the workout itself, as it is just a small percentage of achieving a desired healthy and fit state. Aside from properly using equipment and machines, we must also properly be feeding our bodies. Doing so before and after a workout is essential for staying energized, burning maximum calories, building lean muscle, boosting performance and speeding up the recovery process. Often overlooked, what you eat before and after a workout is more important than how many miles you road that bike for. Below are nutritious pre- and post-workout meal suggestions for fueling your body and producing the best possible results.
Before Your Workout
In preparation for your workout, be sure to load up on quality complex carbohydrates with the addition of a lean, fast-absorbing protein. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source and used to restore glycogen levels, which help to provide muscle energy during a workout. It is suggested to eat one to two hours before exercising.
Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and banana
When it comes to peanut butter, aim for one that is natural or reduced fat. You can also substitute almond butter as well! The banana will help to stabilize potassium levels and the whole wheat bread is a complex carb, which will maintain high energy levels.
If you’re on the go and don’t have time to prepare a full meal, I suggest going with this option. However, be sure to carefully assess the protein bar, as many can be high in calories and sugar, turning out to be just a glorified candy bar. Nationally recognized nutritionist Dr. Jenna Bell-Wilson suggests choosing a bar that has about 200 calories, up to five grams of protein and 25 grams of carbohydrates. If you find one you enjoy, but it is high in calories, eat half and save the rest for after your workout.
Low fat Greek yogurt with fruit or granola
Greek yogurt has double the amount of protein (30%) compared to regular yogurt and also serves as a great source of carbohydrates. Add in fresh berries as they are packed with micronutrients and proven to help fight muscle tenderness as a result. You can also substitute oatmeal for yogurt.
Dried fruit, nuts and seeds
If you don’t have time to prepare a full meal within the suggested time frame, this is a simple, fast solution. However, be sure to take just a handful! The nuts will provide you with a healthy dose of protein and the dried fruit will provide you with simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are easy to digest and will replenish glycogen levels at a much more rapid rate than complex carbohydrates. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are highly suggested, both of which prevent inflammation and maintain healthy muscle systems.
After Your Workout
You just finished a two-hour, sweaty workout and are starving. You may think about rewarding yourself with all the bacon and salty fries your heart desires. You’re so hungry that anything sounds good at this point. Think again! This is not what you want. What you eat after a rigorous workout may just be the most important food you eat all day. Our bodies are in recovery mode and must be fed a nutrient-rich meal to fuel and reload broken down muscles. Here are suggested options for doing so:
Fruit smoothie with protein powder
Smoothies replenish electrolytes, are quickly absorbed, easily digested and, of course, highly convenient. Blend 15 to 20 grams of whey protein and save the rest for carbs. Start with some greens or other veggies, add in fruit and then a liquid, such as juice, coconut water, unsweetened almond milk or soy milk. If you don’t have any of the above, I suggest using water! To achieve a higher nutritional benefit, add in flax or chia seeds, turmeric or ginger. For fruit, use fresh or frozen berries, which contain rich levels of antioxidants.
Sandwich wrap or salad
Prepare yourself a turkey or grilled chicken wrap, but be sure to use a whole grain wrap, as they are loaded with wholesome carbohydrates. Spinach wraps are great as well. Top your sandwich with low-sodium condiments and fresh vegetables. You can also add avocado in, which is a healthy fat. If you prefer to enjoy a salad, add in some whole grains such as quinoa, pasta, brown rice or beans. Brown rice is rich in both protein and fiber and will help restore those glycogen levels. Chicken is filled with lean protein and will help develop lean muscle mass while repairing broken down tissue. If you wish to add cheese, choose low fat.
Egg white and vegetable omelette
Egg protein is considered to be the most readily utilizable protein. It aids muscle growth and contains the necessary amount of amino acids for digesting and absorbing protein making. Scramble two to three eggs and add in some onions, spinach and bell peppers. Spinach is filled with iron and phytoecdysteroids, a form of plant steroids, which have been shown to speed human muscle growth. In cooking, try to refrain from using oils high in fat. An omelet made with two egg whites and spinach contains about 211 calories with 13 grams for protein.
Salmon will provide you with not only a significant dose of protein (20g), but also anti-inflammatory omega-3’s known to rebuild muscles and boost performance. Pair your salmon with spinach and whole-wheat couscous, two high-fiber carbohydrates and a vegetable certain to keep you full into the night. You can also add in sweet potatoes, which provide an abundance of minerals and vitamins.
It is essential that you properly fuel your body after enduring a tough workout. Complete some research of your own and be adventurous with your recipes to make it both simple and enjoyable to maintain a nutritious pre- and post-workout diet. Once you start, you won’t want to stop. Happy workout to all!