To have enough drive and energy to hit the gym hard, you need to fuel your body. You also need to refuel once you are done. But, how do you juggle pre or post-workout fuel with regular meals and a busy schedule? Whether you prefer to get your gym time in before the sun comes up or choose to exercise after a long day at the office, these fueling options will ensure that you remain on top of your game.
Pre-Workout: For most people, eating can be difficult early in the morning but, it’s important to get certain nutrients in prior to a workout (especially after a 6-9 hour overnight fast!). To get the most of your gym session, eat something with a small amount of protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats. My go-to food is a banana and 1T peanut butter. Carbohydrates to boost energy and brain function, fats and protein in the peanut butter to slow absorption so that I maintain that energy boost throughout the entire workout. Bonus, the potassium boost from the banana will also prevent cramping!
Post-Workout: Whip up a quick smoothie for post-workout readiness. You can even make it ahead of time so that it’s ready to go when you are dashing out the door after your workout. Post workout fuel should include a ratio of 1-carbohydrate to 2-proteins for maximum absorption and recovery for hard-working muscles. Try one cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 Tablespoon of cacao seeds (course ground found at natural food stores), and 1 sliced banana. I add a sprinkle or 2 of cinnamon to make it extra tasty! Recommended at least 45 minutes post workout – wait any longer and you can lose that hard earned metabolism boosting muscle.
Pre-Workout: When I work out midday, I can’t rely on the breakfast that I had 3-4 hours ago to fuel me through my workout. Plus, I am already thinking about lunch. Think of this pre-workout fuel as your mid-morning snack - to be enjoyed 1-2 hours prior to your workout. This snack should be convenient, easily digested and nutritious. I love a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts. The fat and protein in the nuts keeps me satiated until the start of the workout and the carbs gives me energy needed to pull me through until lunch time.
Post-Workout: Don’t mistake post-workout refuel for lunch. Often your midday workout falls something around lunchtime but, soup and salad doesn’t sound as appealing right after you’ve completed treadmill sprints and weights – likely you are still a little heated from your workout. My go-to here is a simple protein shake with whey protein powder, ice and fruit (try mangos, oranges, or pineapple –they are high in vitamin-C which is known to decrease oxidative damage from free radicals that can cause muscle loss). Again, protein for muscle repair and carbs to aid in absorption. Keep it light and enjoy a healthy lunch an hour or two later.
Pre-Workout: Squeezing in a workout between the end of your workday and dinner? Miss fueling up first and it’s a recipe for post workout sugary snack attack disaster! Enjoy a snack that includes carbs, protein, and fat. Shoot for a carbohydrate-rich snack that fuels muscles and boosts energy levels, try plain Greek yogurt, with fruit and ¼ oats or granola an hour before your workout. The protein will satiate you until your workout and the carbs will provide focus and energy to get you through the work out.
Post-Workout: If you’ve pushed off dinner for after your workout, chances are that you are famished. But grilled chicken and mixed greens won’t cut it after an intense workout. You need to refuel with complex and simple carbs to replenish glycogen stores – plus, protein for muscle repair. In the evening, there is nothing better than 8-oz of chocolate milk post workout. Sounds indulgent if you are looking to lose weight but, it’s the right balance of carbs/protein/fat that will refuel your body quickly with fast digesting nutrients. Plus, the calcium and magnesium in milk will help your muscles relax while you sleep.