Whether you're a weekend runner, casual volley-baller, or CrossFit aficionado, what you eat before and after a workout is key to getting the most out of your body. But if you're anything like us, what to eat — and when — is a bit of a question mark. So we asked Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, a sports nutritionist and creator of ActiveEatingAdvice.com, for simple tips on super-charging our workouts.
You should have 20 ounces of fluid in your body an hour before you exercise, says Bonci. Start drinking two hours beforehand to avoid guzzling.
“Less is more” before a workout, says Bonci. “Eat too much and it will sit in your stomach and make your digestive tract feel awful,” which is a sure recipe for a less-than-pleasant workout.
Different activities place different demands on the body, according to Bonci. Include both complex carbs for fuel and protein to help repair muscle in pre-workout snacks, but in different ratios based on your workout du jour.
Oatmeal with milk, berries, and a sprinkle of nuts. Measure out a fist-sized amount of oatmeal for portion-control.
An energy bar. Look for options that are high in carbs and have natural ingredients, according to Bonci.
An 8-ounce smoothie made with yogurt and fruit. The yogurt provides protein, the fruit provides carbs.
Cottage cheese with crackers and a small banana. Make sure the crackers are whole-grain. Bananas offer up carbs and potassium, an electrolyte that’s essential for the healthy function of nerves and muscles.
Peanut butter and honey on whole-grain toast. Low-sugar jelly can stand in for honey if you aren’t a fan.
You don’t need a huge amount; Bonci recommends about 20 grams. Try these:
Two scrambled eggs wrapped in a high-protein flatbread. You’ll get the most protein power from whole eggs (rather than just the whites) and the bread will amp up the protein and provide carbs.
Greek yogurt and a spoonful of low-sugar granola . Unsweetened Greek yogurt is important here: It has twice as much protein as the regular kind. Make sure there are some nuts in the granola for extra protein power.
Half a cup of chickpeas, sprinkled with a little salt . You get a lot of bang for your buck with these: They’re rich in protein and carbs. The salt provides flavor, but also sodium. “Don’t be afraid of salt,” says Bonci. “It's essential to the body, but a lot gets lost in sweat.”
Grilled chicken breast or tofu atop a small mound of quinoa. Lean poultry and tofu are obvious sources of quality protein; quinoa is one of the most protein-rich grains.
Drink water and eat something within 30 minutes of exercise to replenish energy stores in muscles and prevent muscles from breaking down further. A full, well-balanced meal is fine, but at least have a snack that contains both protein and carbs.
Chocolate milk. Some research has shown this kid-friendly quaff rivals expensive exercise-recovery drinks by providing a similar balance of carbs (more than in plain milk), protein, and sodium. And because it’s a beverage, it helps with rehydration.
A high-density nutrition bar, such as Clif bar, is a great choice if you only have time to grab something quick after your workout.
Poached eggs and mashed avocado on toast. The protein in the eggs help with muscle recovery, the toast provides some carbs, and the avocado contains healthy fats and fiber.
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