Fueling Your Body Pre- and Post-Workout
I frequently get questions from clients about what to eat before and after a workout. The answer to this question is dependent on the type of workout, duration of the session, and how frequently you are exercising. In this post I’ll go through general nutrition tips for HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), strength training, and endurance workouts (e.g. long-distance running). Give your body the right amount of food to optimize your performance and aid in recovery!
HIIT is a form of interval training involving fast high intensity periods of work followed by periods of recovery.
Due to the intensity of HIIT training, it is important to fuel your body with a moderate carbohydrate meal accompanied by protein 3-4 hours prior to exercising.
Example: One banana with 1-2 tbs of almond butter. This is one of my favorites!
The biggest reason for a post-workout snack is to replace your glycogen stores that were depleted during the workout. A combination of 3:1 carbohydrate to protein eaten within 30 minutes after exercise has been shown to be the most effective.
Example: Hummus with whole-wheat pita bread
Strength training has an abundancy of benefits from improved muscle tone to increased bone density to weight loss. When accompanied by a healthy nutrition plan strength training becomes even more effective.
Prepare your body for the demands of weightlifting before hitting the gym. Many people only focus on protein. While protein is very important for muscle growth and recovery, carbohydrates are equally important because they provide you with the energy to sustain the exercise.
The general recommendation is to consume ~30 to 45 grams of both carbs and protein 60-90 minutes prior to working out.
Example: Greek yogurt with fresh berries
The best post-workout snacks for strength training include 0.5 to 0.7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight with a small amount of protein. A good ratio to follow again is 3:1 carbohydrate to protein. Repeat this for every two hours for the next four to six hours
Example: Roasted sweet potatoes topped with a fried egg and 2 tbsp. salsa
Working out for longer periods of time and distances increases the need for nutrients and calories. From running a half-marathon to competing in the Iron Man, nutrition recommendations vary greatly, but I’ve provided a few general rules of thumb.
A meal or snack high in carbohydrates that includes some protein and fat should be eaten about three to four hours before exercising. If your schedule only allows you to eat an hour or two before, then try to avoid high fiber foods such as fruit or grains. This will help prevent gastrointestinal distress.
Example: Whole grain bagel with low-fat cheese and tomato
Drinking a glass of orange juice, chocolate milk, or a sports drink immediately after an endurance workout is a great way to start re-hydrating and replenishing glycogen stores.
Within 30 minutes post-workout you should also consume a snack with a ratio of 3:1 carbohydrate to protein.
Example: Turkey and cheese wrap in a whole grain tortilla
Continue recovering two to three hours later with a large whole foods meal containing carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Example: Whole wheat penne pasta tossed with grilled chicken, arugula, and cherry tomatoes. Top with feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.
Muth, N. D., & Zive, M. M. (2015). Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company.