Want to know what to eat before or after your exercise sessions? It’s a question we get asked a lot by our clients here at Healthy Glow PT Studio in Woodvale.
Our answer might surprise you…
It depends on what type of exercise you intend to do and when you intend to exercise!!
Fuelling for (and recovering from) exercise matters most when you up the duration and intensity of your workout.
So, if you simply may wish to curb your hunger before a yoga class your choice of nutrition will be completely different to a footy player who has just finished a training session where their meals prove key in helping them perform (and then rebuild).
No matter your sweat session of choice, though, it’s important to consider what to eat before (and after) a workout and consume any small snacks at least 20 to 30 minutes pre-workout, which leaves time for digestion.
Keep any bigger meals to at least two hours before your workout.
So, to help you out, here are some tips based on popular exercise sessions…
Light Exercises (Easy Yoga Class or Walking)
Eating before a light exercise workout?
When you think about carbs as fuel, you’ll realize that you don’t need a lot to make it through a workout that isn’t as taxing.
Whole grains (and lots of fibre) can also make you a little bit windy and bloated before a workout which is not ideal, particularly in a class setting. I’ve attended a number of classes in the past when someone has broke wind – not me I hasten to add!!
If you find that you’re always hit with hunger pangs halfway through a class, consider eating some protein prior to working pre-workout to take the edge off of your hunger.
Some great suggestions would be…
- A hard-boiled egg (about 7g protein)
- A fist-sized portion of Greek yogurt (about 17g protein),
- Half of a protein bar (about 10g protein).
Eating after your light exercise workout:
If your workout is under an hour and not particularly taxing, you don’t really need to worry about post-workout nutrition.
Long, Intense Exercise (Workouts Lasting 60-90 minutes)
What to eat before these types of workout:
If you’re going hard and long for over an hour, you’re going to want to load up on about 30 to 40 grams of carbs as this amount will fuel your muscles, energise you, but won’t weigh you down.
The key here is to aim for a little bit of fat and about 10g protein, too.
Healthy fats can help sustain exercise, but too many can cause GI upset so make sure your food has that balance.
Some great suggestions would be…
- Two grainy slices of bread with almond butter;
- or a milk and fruit smoothie with banana.
What to eat after a 60-minute intense workout:
Recovery meals matter here. Mostly, you want to think about adding carbs and protein within 20 to 30 minutes of your workout.
The ratio that has been shown to be really effective in enhancing muscle recovery is 3 to 4 grams of carbs for every 1 gram of protein.
Try: A shake with whey protein, milk, and fresh fruit.
Short, High-Intensity Exercise (Spin Class, HIIT Training)
What to eat before a high-intensity workout:
With high-intensity, short duration exercise, the big thing is that people can feel like they’re going to get sick if they eat too much.
Plus, if your spin class is only 30 minutes, your body has enough carbs stored in your muscles to last the workout. But for the quick energy and blood sugar lift, consider 15 grams of carbs mixed with protein.
Try: A handful (about 4 to 6) whole-grain crackers with a thin slice of cheese or fresh fruit and string cheese or babybel cheese snack.
What to eat after a high-intensity workout:
What you eat after your HIIT class depends on your fitness goals.
A general rule of thumb? Aim for a 2:1 carb to protein ratio.
What to eat before a resistance-based workout:
Weight training requires high bursts of power, so getting carbs beforehand can be beneficial.
Even 15 to 30 grams of carbs can give you that boost to get you through strength without adding a big calorie load to your day. You’ll also want about 20 grams of protein.
Try: a sandwich (e.g. 85 grams of sliced turkey folded into 1 slice of whole grain bread, optional spinach leaves and a slice of tomato)
What to eat after a resistance-based workout:
Aim for a 1:1 ratio of carbs to protein.
Carbs are our muscle’s primary source of fuel for exercise. So, incorporating carbs immediately post-workout helps with muscle recovery by starting the process of replenishing our body’s carbohydrate stores.
Amino acids from protein can help to start that repair process in the muscles.
Try: About 1/2 cup of cottage cheese with sliced peaches.
There you have it. Some great tips on what to eat before or after your workouts.
Do you have any tips to add to this?
If so, please let me know what you like to eat before and after your workouts in the comments below.
If this post has inspired you and you are interested to learn how to make subtle, but impactful changes to your health and fitness, then perhaps a great starting point might be to download the HEALTHY GLOW 7-Day Nutrition and Exercise Planner