What to eat before and after a workout
Whether you’re training for a half-marathon or preparing for a sweaty Zumba class, what you eat before and immediately after your workout is just as important as the workout itself. “If you work out for longer than an hour, you’re likely running low on stored glycogen, the carbohydrate that fuels muscle contractions,” says Mary Jane Detroyer, RD, an exercise physiologist and personal trainer in New York City. Here’s what to eat before and after your one-hour-plus workouts to reach your fitness goals.
Before you work out
Eating 150 to 200 calories before an hour or longer exercise session won’t make you gain weight. Rather, a small snack allows you to increase the intensity of a run, ride, hike, or fitness class—and in turn, helps you burn more calories than if you were underfueled. “You want a snack to last the duration of your workout, so you can finish it strong,” says Detroyer.
The details: Thirty to 60 minutes before exercise eat a “mini-meal” that includes carbohydrate, protein, fiber, and a small amount of fat.
Try: 1 string cheese + 3 whole-wheat crackers; 1 cup butternut squash soup + ½ tablespoon oil; or ½ cup whole-grain cereal + ½ cup milk + ¼ cup fruit.
After you work out
Following a workout, your muscles are most receptive to absorbing glycogen. “If you don’t eat a post-workout snack, you’ll be fatigued the next day and your next workout will suffer,” says Detroyer. “Without a snack, you won’t be able to correctly recover and get stronger.”
The details: Within 20 minutes after your workout, replenish muscles with foods or beverages that deliver 150 to 200 calories and contain a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 4:1. Including ample protein in meals is typically a good idea because it keeps you full longer, but in this case you want an easily digestible carbohydrate that your muscles can quickly absorb, explains Detroyer.
Try: 1 cup nonfat chocolate milk; 1 small baked sweet potato + dollop of plain yogurt; or 1 slice wheat bread + 1 tablespoon each nut butter and jelly.