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Megan Best


What to eat before and after a workout


Ever feel like you just lost steam halfway through a workout and can’t figure out why?

Let’s be clear, there could be many reasons for this, including:⁣⁣⁣⁣

  • You didn’t sleep well last night.⁣⁣
  • You didn’t pace the workout well.⁣⁣
  • The volume or load wasn’t appropriate (too heavy, too many reps)
  • The workout was just TOUGH.⁣⁣

Buttttt also let’s be real and say we can attribute this to poor nutrition…often. So let’s talk about proper fueling around workouts!⁣⁣

Before a workout

First let’s discuss timing: the ideal situation is to get your preworkout nutrition in about 90 minutes before your workout. However, I know we all workout at different times! Plus my busy professionals out there often lose all track of their nutrition until it’s time to drive to the gym, so here are some recommendations on size based on when you’re able to eat: ⁣⁣

  • 2-3 hours prior: a sizeable meal⁣⁣
  • 60-90 minutes prior: a large snack⁣⁣
  • 30-60 minutes prior: a smaller snack⁣⁣

Personally I recommend the combo of a meal 2-3 hours and a small snack 30-60 minutes prior.⁣⁣

Composition of a preworkout meal:

  • .3-.4g/kg bodyweight of protein⁣⁣
  • 1.2g/kg bodyweight of carbohydrates⁣⁣
  • Minimal fat and fiber: these will slow gastric emptying and may give you that full/gurgling/sloshy feeling midworkout.⁣⁣

The goal of a preworkout snack is to “top off” carbohydrate stores, maintain blood sugar levels and delay the depletion of glycogen (stored glucose aka carbs) in the muscles and liver during your workout. We also want to add a source of hydration to optimize fluid levels- most of the time water will do, but for some an electrolyte beverage may be helpful. For an everyday exerciser (someone who is working out 45-60 minutes per day for health) who had a sufficient meal a couple hours beforehand, 15-45g should be enough to top of carbohydrate stores. This is obviously a broad range and will depend on factors like gender and body size (a large male needing more than a smaller female).

Pre-workout snack suggestions

  • A peanut butter and banana or PBJ sandwich⁣⁣
  • Greek yogurt with berries⁣⁣
  • Oatmeal with milk and fruit⁣⁣
  • Apple and peanut or almond butter⁣⁣
  • Handful of nuts and raisins (two parts raisins: one part nuts)⁣

After a workout

Post workout is all about replacing calories, replenishing glycogen stores, and providing protein for muscle recovery.  It’s also a good idea to include electrolytes (found in nutrient dense foods like fruits and vegetables) because we lose them when we sweat!

Composition of a post workout meal:

  • .3-.4g/kg bodyweight of protein⁣⁣
  • 1.2g/kg bodyweight of carbohydrates⁣⁣
  • Fat and fiber as tolerated (this meal should contain these if possible, and other daily meals should contain 10-20g fat and minimum 7-10g fiber)

The goal here is a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein post workout.

Post workout meal ideas:

  • Chicken and Rice
  • Greek Yogurt with Fruit
  • Eggs and Sweet Potatoes
  • Oatmeal with Protein Powder
  • Salmon and Quinoa

Do I need to eat something during my workout?

If you are an everyday athlete working out 45-60 minutes per day, the answer to this question is likely no. However, there are some cases where athletes may need additional fuel during their workout- when a workout lasts longer than 90 minutes, for example. My recommendation would be to discuss your individual needs with a Registered Dietitian to figure out what is appropriate for you!

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