Taking in the right type of foods and at the right times before and after exercise can improve your workout performance and help you recover more quickly. Your body needs carbohydrates, which it uses as fuel. The protein you get from the food you eat is used to heal muscle tissue after intense cardio and weight training workouts.
The food that you eat before your workouts will help fuel your working tissues during your training sessions. You don’t want to work out in the morning without eating anything, because your body is already at an energy deficit, which can cause low energy and adversely affect your workout performance. However, avoid eating too close to your workout, because it can cause nausea and stomach cramps. MayoClinic.com recommends eating large meals no sooner than three to four hours before your workout, small meals two to three hours beforehand and small snacks no sooner than an hour before you do cardio or hit the weights.
Eating carbohydrates before your workout will ensure that your muscles have the energy they need to perform optimally. Registered dietitian Kati Mora suggests whole-wheat toast and a banana or grilled chicken with mixed vegetables. A homemade fruit smoothie is another good option. Columbia University Health recommends that you avoid high-fat proteins like cheese, peanut butter and red meat before exercise because they take longer to digest. In addition, avoid eating high-fiber foods within one to two hours of your workout.
Eat immediately following high-intensity and weightlifting workouts. According to Dr. Martica Heaner, you can replenish muscle carbohydrates more efficiently within the first 45 minutes after a workout. If you don’t get your meal in within this time, and thus delay refueling, you severely limit how well your body is able to replenish carbohydrates and handle the muscle protein repairing process. Pack your meal with you so that you have it right there after your workout.
A meal consisting of both carbohydrates and protein effectively increases your body’s ability to replenish its glycogen stores and help your muscles heal and recover. Quality snacks and meals include a peanut butter sandwich, yogurt with fruit, nuts, a bagel with cream cheese and crackers and cheese. Pack an energy bar that has both carbohydrates and proteins in your gym bag if you can’t get home and eat a meal within 45 minutes.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images