Food before and after exercise is vitally important. Selecting an ideal combination of whole foods and packaged liquids can boost metabolism, provide energy and aid muscle recovery.

Before exercising, consume carbohydrates to fuel your muscles – such as eating a bagel with peanut butter or smoothie with oats, yogurt and fruit – then afterward consume protein to repair muscle fibers and replenish fluid lost through sweat.

Carbohydrates

Carbs are our body’s main energy source and should provide all of the fuel we need for exercise like running or fitness classes. They’re also an important source of glycogen – essential in providing energy to working muscles during prolonged exercise to aid recovery afterwards – though excessive consumption may lead to weight gain. However, be wary when eating carbohydrates as excess intake could result in weight gain.

Ideally, it is ideal to consume carbohydrates at least three or four hours before beginning an activity, in order to give yourself enough energy without becoming overly full or uncomfortable. A light meal or snack containing both proteins and carbs would provide optimal pre-workout fuel – lean meats, fish, tofu, low-fat yogurt and nuts can all make great pre-workout snacks!

If you don’t have much time to cook food, a carb-rich sports drink can be an efficient solution. These beverages often provide a mix of simple and complex carbs as well as some protein for faster recovery after physical activity. These beverages are commonly available at sports stores, grocery stores or health food shops.

Bananas make an excellent pre-workout snack, packed with natural sugars and potassium–an electrolyte that can prevent muscle cramps while replenishing fluid lost through sweat. Peanut or almond butter on toast also provides both essential healthy fats as well as blood-sugar-stabilizing complex carbs that support optimal performance.

If a person lacks energy to complete his workout, he or she may skip meals afterward in an effort to conserve energy and avoid muscle breakdown as energy source – this can result in muscle degradation which could thwart their fitness goals and make your fitness goals unreachable.

After an intense workout, your body needs to quickly replenish its glycogen reserves to avoid muscle fatigue and promote recovery. Aim to consume 1 to 1.5 grams of carbs for every kilogram of body weight within 30 minutes after your session (equivalent to 68 to 102 grams for a 150-pound individual).

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Protein

Fueling your workout correctly is essential to optimizing strength, endurance and agility benefits of any physical exercise regime – but understanding when and what foods to eat before and after exercise may be challenging.

As a general guideline, athletes should eat food rich in protein and carbs approximately one hour before beginning their workout to provide energy that will get them going and last throughout their session. But it’s important to remember that each individual body is unique; therefore, your pre-workout meal or snack must be tailored specifically to you and meet your specific requirements.

Chocolate milk provides both protein and carbohydrates to kick-start your workout on an energetic note and maintain energy throughout your session. Other great choices are yogurt, eggs, bananas or even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

After exercising, it’s wise to wait an hour before eating your next meal or snack in order to give your body time to fully replenish its energy stores and restore itself. It also offers an opportunity to replenish muscle tissues with proteins for repairs and growth.

Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CCSD, LD recommends eating post-workout snacks or meals rich in both proteins and carbs to maximize performance during your workout, according to sports dietitian Kate Patton. Also aim for something with leucine content – proven to stimulate muscle protein synthesis after physical exertion.

Bananas make an excellent snack because they contain carbohydrates as well as leucine and potassium – two nutrients which may help relieve post-workout muscle soreness. Other healthy options may include protein shakes made with dairy or non-dairy milk, low-fat chocolate milk or oatmeal packed with protein-rich yogurt and berries; or for something heartier consider creating your own stir fry that includes vegetables as well as lean proteins.

Fats

As with a car that needs fuel to operate properly and optimally, your body requires food for proper functioning and optimal performance. Eating well prior, during, and post workout can help maximize efforts, speed recovery time, and ensure muscles receive adequate nourishment. Finding the best combinations may take some trial-and-error but is essential in reaching specific exercise goals.

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Before beginning any physical activity, it’s essential to provide your body with both protein and carbs in the form of carbohydrates for energy purposes and protein for building and repairing muscles. Aim to consume both of these nutrients one to four hours prior to your workout as well as within an hour after finishing your training.

Pre-workout foods that provide both carbs and proteins – like yogurt with fruit, banana with peanut butter or whole grain toast with lean turkey or chicken – make for great pre-workout fuel, providing both blood-sugar-stabilizing complex carbs as well as healthy proteins for blood-sugar stabilization and easy digestion during your workout session.

Sugary snack foods should be consumed prior to a workout as they can lead to an energy crash and make you hungry, as well as high-fat foods as these may slow digestion. Drinking fluids throughout the day – specifically water – will keep you hydrated; drinking it immediately prior or during workout sessions is especially helpful for maximising results and staying hydrated.

Eat something two to four hours before engaging in vigorous or prolonged physical activity, especially if your workout will be intense or long. Try eating a nutritious meal that contains both proteins and carbohydrates such as grilled chicken with vegetables over rice or pasta or even breakfast burrito.

As soon as your workout is done, consume something rich in carbs and proteins to give your muscles what they need for recovery and hydration. Water or sports beverages with sodium to promote fluid retention should also be consumed to increase fluid retention. Delaying recovery too long could result in fatigue and soreness; carb-rich snacks like chocolate milk, fruit or whole wheat toast with peanut butter might do the trick or try creating a smoothie out of whey protein and low-fat yogurt smoothie.

Water

Your nutrition before and after exercising can make an immense difference to meeting and exceeding fitness goals. What you eat has an enormous effect on how quickly your body recovers and if you can exercise again soon; in fact, nutrition plays an integral part of any fitness regime and it is crucial for all individuals to have a nutritious diet.

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Most people can perform better when working out on an empty stomach; however, if possible try eating something light before your workout session such as a protein shake, granola bar, banana, or piece of fruit to provide fuel and be more productive. Be sure to drink lots of water during and after your exercise too!

Before beginning an intensive workout session, it’s recommended to consume a meal or snack rich in carbs and proteins two to four hours in advance. This will give your muscles energy while giving digestion time to take place. When choosing foods suitable for this preparation phase such as lean meats, eggs, low-fat yogurt and whole grains.

Eating a protein-rich snack 30 to 60 minutes before your workout can also provide the energy and slow carbohydrate digestion for better muscle recovery afterward. Try eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, protein bars or smoothies made with whey protein powder, fruit puree and water as examples of foods rich in proteins.

When time is limited and only have 30-60 minutes for prepping for your workout, a snack or mini breakfast is acceptable. Chocolate milk offers the ideal ratio of carbs to protein; its carbs provide fuel for your workout; it contains 90% water which will replenish some of the fluid lost through sweat during physical exertion; alternatively a caffeinated drink like coffee can give an energy boost before exercise – but be wary not to consume too much caffeine as too much can lead to upset stomach.