Eating for Exercise

Providence Health Team

What to Eat Before, During and After Your Workout

Eating and exercise go hand and hand. To get the most from your workout, your body needs the right fuel before, during and after. But, every body and every workout is different. A banana and toast with peanut butter maybe the perfect fuel before your friend’s 5k run, but a small cup of yogurt might serve your body – and workout – better. So experiment a little. Use these helpful hints as a guide and pay attention to what your body needs and fuel it specifically for your exercise regimen.

Before You Exercise

Like a car, your body needs fuel to go! Muscles need carbohydrates for quick energy and protein for growth and maintaining strength. So fuel your exercise with foods rich in protein and carbohydrates. To avoid a stomachache, side cramps or a sluggish feeling, don’t eat large meals before you exercise. Rather, eat a small snack roughly 45-60 minutes before your workout. Give these options a try:

  • Banana or apple slices
  • Whole-grain toast with almond or peanut butter
  • Low-fat yogurt with berries
  • Granola bar or trail mix
  • Fruit smoothie

If you workout first thing in the morning and you’re not ready for food, try eating a healthy snack the night before, and drink a glass of juice in the morning to help boost your blood sugar. It’s okay to have a few cups of morning “joe” to help jump-start your workout. Remember: caffeine is a diuretic, so make sure to balance the coffee with water to avoid dehydration.

During Your Workout

For most of us, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water or a low-calorie sports drink is the best way to fuel our body during a workout. Take small sips every 15-20 minutes to avoid side aches or feeling full. Energy bars, gels and gummy chews are designed to quickly replenish the body of electrolytes and carbohydrates, but these are better suited for endurance athletes, not every-day, recreational workouts.

After You Exercise

Eat your post-exercise meal within two hours of your workout to help your muscles and blood sugar recover. Again, stick to foods rich in proteins and carbohydrates. This is also a great time to add salmon, grilled chicken or tofu to your plate. And be sure to wash it down with a large glass of water. Other healthy options include:

  • Peanut butter, tuna or egg salad sandwich
  • Nuts and dried fruit
  • String cheese
  • Sweet potatoe

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