Working out is important to your physical and mental health. You might have questions about what to eat before and after workouts. I have done some research on the topic and want to share my findings with you. Eating a snack before working out in the morning will provide a boost of energy because your body has been fasting during the night. Eating a snack before working out in the late afternoon will also provide much needed energy given that you probably eat lunch several hours earlier. Experts in the field recommend that you eat something within one hour after working out to maximize recovery, if you are not planning to eat a regular meal. Below are some examples of balanced snacks and meals that will help fuel your body.
The type of food you should eat before a workout depends on the type of activity that you have planned. For strength training, aim for a snack rich in protein. This may include 6 ounces low fat Greek yogurt and ¼ cup of almonds, string cheese or an energy bar with 8 or more grams of protein (1). For a cardio workout, complex carbohydrates are a great energy source. Examples include a small box of raisins (2 tablespoons), a small banana, or one slice of whole wheat bread with a thin layer of peanut butter. Try eating these foods 30-60 minutes before working out to allow time for digestion.
If you exercise immediately before a meal like breakfast or lunch, then skip the post-workout snack and fuel your body with a healthy meal that contains quality carbohydrates and protein. Base your meal on the MyPlate guidelines to ensure that it is balanced and contains each food group (3). One example of a well-balanced meal is hard cooked eggs with a slice of whole grain toast and 100% fruit juice or oatmeal with berries and milk (2). If you workout later in the morning, try having a grilled chicken salad (with vegetables, nuts, quinoa and fruit such as apples or cranberries to provide a well-rounded meal with protein, fats, and carbohydrates) or turkey sub with whole wheat bread and a side of veggies for lunch.
If you do not have a meal planned close to your workout, plan to have a snack to replenish carbohydrate stores and repair muscles. Examples of great post workout snacks include: one tablespoon of nut butter on apple slices, 6-8 ounces of low fat chocolate milk or a string cheese with a few whole grain crackers.
Remember to hydrate and rehydrate! The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 16-20 ounces of water at least 4 hours before working out and another 8-12 ounces 10 or 15 minutes after working out (4). Sip 3 to 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes during any work out that is less than 1 hour (1). Keep your body properly hydrated and fueled to get the best workout possible. We hope you have a fulfilling workout!
Written by HealthWorks member, Valerie Snell
- Wolfram, Taylor. “How to Fuel Your Workout”. Eat Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 10 Jul. 2018, https://www.eatright.org/fitness/exercise/exercise-nutrition/how-to-fuel-your-workout
- Rosenbloom, Christine. “3 Easy Tips for Fueling Your Workout without Overdoing It.” Eat Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics., 19 Oct. 2016, eatright.org/fitness/sports-and-performance/fueling-your-workout/3-easy-tips-for-fueling-your-workout-without-overdoing-it.
- Michael N. Sawka, FACSM (chair); Louise M. Burke, FACSM, E. Randy Eichner, FACSM, Ronald J. Maughan, FACSM, Scott J. Montain, FACSM, Nina S. Stachenfeld, FACSM. American College of Sports Medicine Exercise and Fluid Replacement Position Stand