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What to Eat Before and After Your Workout

Whether you're an athlete, active individual, or just starting your fitness journey, proper nutrition plays a vital role in optimizing your workouts and maximizing your results. Pre-workout and post-workout nutrition are two crucial components that can help enhance your performance, aid in recovery, and support your overall fitness goals. In this article, we'll delve into the significance of pre-workout and post-workout nutrition and provide practical tips to fuel your workouts effectively.

Pre-Workout Nutrition

Pre-workout nutrition involves consuming the right combination of nutrients to provide energy, enhance endurance, and prepare your body for exercise. Here are some considerations for an effective pre-workout routine:

Timing your pre-workout meal: Give yourself enough time to digest your meal or snack before exercising. Aim to eat 2-3 hours before exercising, depending on the size and composition of the meal. If you're pressed for time, a light snack 30-60 minutes before exercise can provide a quick energy boost.

Carbohydrates for Energy: Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for your muscles during exercise. The greater the intensity, the more your body relies on carbohydrates. Before your workout, opt for easily digestible carbohydrate sources. Some options include fruit, bread, bagels, rice, whole grain cereals with low-fat milk, or starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Protein for Muscle Support: Including a moderate amount of protein in your pre-workout meal or snack can aid in muscle maintenance and repair. Opt for lean protein sources like poultry, fish, tofu, tempeh, and dairy products. Dairy such as milk, chocolate milk, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese are all excellent sources of protein.

Prioritize hydration: Don't forget the importance of hydration. Drink water throughout the day, aiming for at least 16-20 oz. of fluid in the few hours leading up to your training session. To estimate hydration needs during exercise, simply take your weight in pounds and divide it by 30 to find an estimated amount of ounces per 15 minutes. For example, if you weigh 160 lbs, this would come out to be about 5 oz. every 15 minutes or so. Hydration needs will depend on several factors such as rate of exertion, sweat rate, and environmental factors. 

Post-Workout Nutrition

Post-workout nutrition is crucial for replenishing energy stores, promoting muscle repair, and facilitating recovery. Here are some key considerations for post-workout nutrition:

Refuel with Carbohydrates: After a workout, your body needs to replenish its glycogen stores. Consume a combination of complex carbohydrates and easily digestible sugars to restore energy levels. Chocolate milk is an athlete favorite, and we love that it hits on all 3 - carbs, protein, and fluids, providing a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein to help refuel exhausted muscles after strenuous exercise.

Rebuild with Protein: Post-workout protein intake is essential for muscle repair and growth. Include a serving of high-quality protein in your post-workout meal or snack. Lean meat and poultry, eggs, dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese, legumes, soy, or ready-to-drink protein shakes are excellent options.

Incorporate Antioxidant-Rich Foods: Include antioxidant-rich foods like berries, leafy greens, and colorful vegetables to combat inflammation and promote recovery. Research shows that polyphenols can help minimize post-exercise pain, improve strength recovery and reduce fatigue. Polyphenols are found in plant foods such as fruit like berries and cherries, herbs and spices, vegetables, nuts and seeds. One of our athlete’s favorite post-workout snacks is a smoothie made with antioxidant-rich frozen berries and leafy greens, blended with bananas or oats for more carbohydrates, and milk or yogurt for high-quality protein. 

Prioritize hydration: Rehydrate your body after exercise by drinking water or electrolyte-rich beverages. Fluid replenishment is crucial for restoring hydration levels and aiding in recovery. As I mentioned earlier, chocolate milk is another excellent option providing fluids, carbohydrates, and protein.

Pre-workout and post-workout nutrition are integral parts of a well-rounded training regimen. Proper fueling before exercise provides the energy and nutrients needed for optimal performance, while post-workout nutrition helps to optimize recovery and support muscle repair. By paying attention to your body's nutritional needs and applying these guidelines, you can maximize your workouts and enhance your results. Meet with a registered dietitian today to help develop a personalized pre and post-workout nutrition plan for you.

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