What to Eat Before & After a Workout


diet-eat-after-exercise
We all know the importance of exercise, but I've often faced the question about What to eat before and after a workout, and how much time should I give after a meal before I hit the gym? Is this important? Yes, indeed, as this can very well be responsible for how effective your workout is! Diet and Exercise go hand-in-hand, and while you may know that you should space your meals 5 times a day, its imperative to know how much and what to eat before hitting the gym so that you can reap the maximum benefits from your workout. Exercising on a full stomach will make you sluggish, while not eating will not give you enough strength to complete your workout. Same goes for after the workout. So what food should you actually choose as your pre-workout and post-workout meal?

The foods you eat before you exercise and the timing of your meals or snacks really matters a lot. If you eat a large meal just before you exercise, you may experience nausea, feel sluggish or end up with muscle cramps. This happens because your body needs energy to digest the foods you eat so blood flow increases to your digestive system, leaving less energy-providing blood for muscles. Exercising on an empty stomach isn't good either. Skipping meals before exercising can cause low blood sugar, which can make you to feel weak and light-headed. You also need some energy in the form of the right types of food to properly fuel your work out. Eating a light meal before exercise may actually increase your fat-burning potential.

Eating Before Exercise
If you eat a large, protein, fiber and fat filled meal, wait about four hours to exercise.If you eat a light meal, you only have to wait about two hours to work out. Your body prefers to use carbohydrates as fuel, so your pre-workout meal should include plenty of carbohydrates from bread, pasta, fruits and vegetables and energy bars. You can even choose low-fat yogurt or some granola or cereal if you have at least 3 hours before your session. You don't need to avoid protein and fat, however they are not recommended if you will be exercising in an hour or two. If your timing is off and you feel hungry when it is time to exercise, pick a small snack like a piece of fruit, a sports beverage or some natural fruit juice. I prefer to drink a glass of V8 fruit or tomato juice an hour before I'm ready to go to the gym. Meats, doughnuts, fries, potato chips, cookies and candy bars should definitely be avoided in a pre-exercise meal. Also avoid high-fiber foods like beans and lentils, bran cereals and fruit, as they can cause gas or cramping.

If you prefer morning workouts, it's best to get up early enough to eat your pre-exercise meal. If not, you should try to eat or drink something easily digestible about 20 to 30 minutes before the event, or opt for a liquid meal as its much easier to digest. If you work out in the evenings, choose a time before dinner, so you have at least 2-3 hours after the workout to eat your dinner. If possible, keep your dinners light and choose a heavier lunch.

Eating After Exercise
Eating after exercise is important as well to restore glycogen. Your muscles need the raw materials to recuperate after your work out. The first nutritional priority after exercise is to replace any fluid lost during exercise, so replenish yourself with water or juice as soon as you are done. The post-work out meal should contain some protein, some complex carbohydrates and some healthy fats too. Research has shown that eating 100-200 grams of carbohydrate within two hours of endurance exercise is essential to building adequate glycogen stores for continued training. However, combining protein with carbohydrate in the two hours after exercise nearly doubles the insulin response, which results in more stored glycogen. Proteins also provide the amino acids necessary to rebuild muscle tissue that is damaged during intense, prolonged exercise (or strength-training), and can increase the absorption of water from the intestines and improve muscle hydration.

The optimal carbohydrate to protein ratio for this effect is 4:1 (four grams of carbohydrate for every one gram of protein). Eating more protein than that has a negative impact bas it slows rehydration and glycogen replenishment. A light meal or snack within 2 hours after exercise is perfect. A Balance bar or a lean turkey sandwich on whole grain bread would make a nice after-workout snack. YOu can also choose an egg, or a simple salad or fruit drink. Remember to be within your calorie count for the day though, and choose something light, especially if you are still going to have dinner later.

Do Not Forget the Water
Hydration is as important for your health as food, and when you exercise, your body undergoes a depletion of water when you sweat. Drink a glass of water an hour or so before your workout and again after your workout. You can also sip water throughout your workout if you'd like, which keeps you hydrated, and also helps burn more calories.

Choose What's Best for You
Generally, the average woman needs 200 calories of food and 20 ounces of water 1 hour prior to her workout. Men with higher calorie needs may need 300 calories and 30ounces of water. However, every body has a different need, and though generalisations give you an idea, you are the only one who knows your body. Some people, like my husband, can never exercise on an empty stomach, but I have a friend who feels like she'll throw up if she eats anything before a workout! So its best to consult a registered dietitian who can chart out a meal plan based on your individual needs. Try different options and see what works best for you. Be careful not to eat too much or too little at one time, and remember to space out your meals during the day. Also, if you have special conditions like diabetes or low or high blood pressure, you should not follow any advice without consulting a physician.

There is no joy compared to seeing yourself burn more fat and lose a few inches! I'm sure everyone works hard enough to achieve their fitness goals, and with just a little more care in choosing what you eat can help a lot in conquering your goals. So use the suggestions above as guidelines to decide on what to eat before and after exercise, and find out what works out best for you.

Note: The author is not a licensed nutritionist or trainer. Please restrict use of this article as a guideline only, and consult a physician for individual needs.

Related Articles:
Counting Calories for Healthy Weight Loss
Combine Cardio and Strength-Training in your Workout
10 Simple Eating Habits for Weight Management


If you liked this post, please subscribe to our feed so you'd never miss a recipe or article again!





36 comments :

Rachel said...

Well compiled post...Hydrating the body before exercise is so true!

Asha said...

Great post! Helps a lot if you workout. Water replacement is very imp. Good one Mansi.
Me? Nah!;D
I do wt lifting for 10 mins, that's it!:P

Ben said...

Great article, Mansi. I am reading this right after my workout and although I had a general idea of what to eat before and after, you have educated me even more.

Shilpa said...

Great post Mansi. Will have to take care of it for my hubby.

JZ @ Tasty treats said...

what an informative post mansi! u always come up with such useful articles..thanks for sharing!!

Medhaa said...

Lovely post Mansi, very helpful.

susanna said...

very well-written and researched post! I am working with a trainer these days, and yet find it hard to actually find vegetarian food that I can eat before workouts, and end up munching a cookie or scone, but now I'm gonna try your tips here:)

thanks for a useful article, and I am loving your cardio-strengthtraining article too!

-susanna

Alka said...

hi mansi,
Valuable info,though dieticians at gym provide a rough idea about what to eat and what to avoid ,they generally don't explain the scientific reason behind that,i m delighted that u piled up these for us
Thanks dear,will surely be helpful to many of ppl who had recently hit the gym

Adam said...

Great idea for a post about workout nutrition. This is essential information that many people are not aware of.

Personally, as a bodybuilder I would change a few things, but overall I agree with it.

Thanks for informing people... We need more posts like this.

ushaprashanth said...

Hi!
The post is very useful for me! thanks!

Sailaja said...

Very good information. Thanks for sharing

Bhawana said...

Hi Mansi,

a surprise awaits you in my blog.

love-Bhawana

Mansi Desai said...

yes, the basic goal of this post was to educate people and encourage them to find out more! I'm glad it's helping some of you out there:)

Adam - pls feel free to add specific ideas or suggestions via comments! I'm sure some bodybuilders might be reading this:)

Anonymous said...

excellent writeup!

~jason

mitr_bayarea said...

Mansi,

a great post, very educative...now I know what to eat before and after my work-out.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

exceelent advice. Too bad I never follow it! Especially with the morning thing. I get up at 5:15 to work out in the AM, so eating is the last thing on my mind. It's roll out of bed and roll to the gym. I do eat as soon as I come back from the gym though.

Ramya's Mane Adige said...

very informative, Mansi!! thanx so much...

KALVA said...

Wow nice detailed post... Yes u nee dhydrate ur body

Divya Vikram said...

That is great info Mansi

Meenal said...

You have a nice blog

Jyothsna said...

Thanks fpr the info, Mansi! Will help me for sure!

Lore said...

Great tips Mansi, I must remember them :)

farida said...

Mansi, what a great post! I just started jogging and exercising again after a long break (pregnancy and etc) and I never know how to approach the food aspect during the process:) Printing your post for my reference:) Thank you!

VJ said...

Nice post but it wud ve been better with some specific foods after or before workouts.....

Mansi Desai said...

VJ - I have tried to be specific with some common foods in the pre and post workout meal secion, if you check properly - like snack bars, sandwiches, etc; however, its impossible to suggest what exactly to eat as it varies from person to person, depending on their BMI, weight, fitness goal, and calorie target...this is more as a guideline so you can ask specific questions to your trainer:)

SpinDiva said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. Very well written and full of useful tips for better nutrition before and after exercise.

Sophie said...

Oh Mansi, what a lovely & informative post!

Very usuful too! Thanks so much!

barryS said...

Some good points made here, but fueling your body after 20-30 minutes after workout is the best way to replenish depleted glycogen levels.. Something like a glass of milk with some quick acting carbs are best like sugar (chocolate syrup) or fruit juice then after 1 hour have a more substantial meal with protein and carbs,fat ratio

Christine Medifast said...

This is some useful information. Most people fail to understand the benefits of what they eat before and after a work out and it can really improve their performance. Thanks for sharing this information

Kathryn said...

Increasing the insulin response is not something you want to do.
Infact I would recommend avoiding all processed carbs such as bread, pasta breakfast cereals and even white rice.
If you want to lose weight limiting your carb intake to approximately 100g a day is the first step to take.

After a workout, drink a large glass of milk to replenish your body with amino acids, fatty acids and some glucose (lactose).

Chrish Tiyan said...

The results of this body / mind therapy include relief from anxiety, habits and addictions, patterns and cycles of self-sabotage, and dissociative behaviors. It brings on a sense of reawakening and access to instincts which illicits feelings of groundedness, centeredness, boundaries, empowerment, being “in the moment”, safety and joyfulness. Hope you enjoy this site and have a healthy living.
http://www.createyourhealth.com/wordpress/somatic-experiencing

Marie said...

I'm sorry, you seem to mean really well but alot of what you're saying is very inaccurate. You should eat within 45 (or possibly 60) minutes of a workout, not 2 hours- It's called the Golden Hour. And I'm sorry but alot of what you said doesn't event make sense- like eat fruit before you work out, but don't eat high fiber fruit, which is practically everything.
Omg wait but I just read that all the comments are approved by the author so never stupid mind.
But I really hope you change your info to the right stuff, cuz because of sites like this I've been eating completely wrong after my workouts for the last month.

Mansi said...

Marie,

thanks for your input, but please note that I put in a lot of research and cross-check what I write before I publish an article. And yet, since I am not a certified trainer, I always urge my readers to consult a regular fitness expert before following the ideas represented on this blog.

Mohit said...

good work...it helps me a lot...

Kevin said...

I have to agree with Marie on the post-workout meal. I've been working out and training others all my life. You need to eat within 45 minutes after a workout. The science behind that is easy. Your muscle cells widen/open fully when working out. After 45 minutes, your muscle cells are almost completely closed. In order to build muscle and get the most from your workout, you need to make sure you eat a good amount of protein and healthy fats during this timeframe. Otherwise, most of the nutrients you eat will bypass your muscle cells instead of entering in to build.

Alex - Top Workout Songs said...

Awesome write up

Nutrition is the key to loosing weight and staying healthy. I'm definitely going to be using some of these tips before and after my workouts, Thanks!

Alex