Getting to the gym is routine for some and not so much for others, but one thing’s for sure, what most people don’t seem to get to grips with is what and when to eat pre and post workout – which can make all the difference to the effort you put in.
When it comes to the body, there are a few things to keep in mind whether you’re a gym bunny or an occasional jogger (we’re leaving out the proper training athlete’s here!): carbs fuel working muscles, protein is your friend, and listening to your body is key. Every body is different and works best with specific preferences, so working with a Nutritional Therapist, Personal Trainer or Dietitian can be helpful as they can tweak your plan based on what works best for you.
When to eat before a workout or going to the gym
The combination of carbs and protein is essential for muscle build and repair. Getting the right amount in before and after you exercise can help make a difference from soreness to overall goals, whether they be to tone up or to sustainably lose weight long-term.
Ideally, fuelling your body about 1 to 3 hours before you exercise is ideal, depending on how you tolerate food. You can try and experiment to see what time frame works best for you.
If it’s within an hour, you’re going to want something small that absorbs quickly rather than something heavy. If it’s within 2-3 hours, you’ll want a larger, more balanced meal with some more protein and fibre.
Pre-workout nutrition: What to eat 1 hour before exercise
Some of the easiest light snacks to make before a workout include inexpensive products you probably already have in your kitchen. If you usually go to the gym after work for example, you can prepare one of these in advance and keep them in a container or in the office fridge:
• 1 apple or banana with 1 tablespoon of almond butter
• 1-2 hard boiled eggs with 1 slice of whole wheat or sprouted grain toast
• ¾ cup Greek yogurt with ½ cup of fresh berries
• 1-2 tablespoons of unsalted nuts with 2-4 tablespoons of raisins or other dried fruit
Pre-workout nutrition: What to eat 2-3 hours before exercise
It’s important to fuel your body with protein and fibre to keep you going until you hit the gym. Some of the best meals to eat when you have a couple of hours before you train are:
• ¾ cup turkey or chicken (or beans/peas/lentils) with 1 slice of whole wheat or sprouted grain toast with veggies
• Oatmeal with milk of choice
• 4 oz chicken (or other meat) with ¾ cup carb (e.g. quinoa or brown rice) with veggies
• Omelette with veggies of choice (e.g., spinach and peppers), 1/2 avocado on top, and ½ cup sweet potato on the side
Post-workout nutrition: Best things to eat after a workout
Depending on what type of exercise you do, your body will need to recover with certain foods. Strength and cardio training require different methods of fueling:
• Strength training
Opt for quick absorbing meal choices within 20 minutes to 1 hour post strength training. Then include a balanced combination of protein and carbs within an hour or two. You can make a delicious post-recovery smoothie with fruit and greek yogurt or protein powder, or a protein drink.
• Cardio training
Opt for a balanced combination of protein and carbs within 1 hour post cardio exercise. You can even dig into the meals you prepped for your post-training. These meals are packed full of necessary proteins, fibres and carbs to help you recover.
Make sure that you’re reaping the benefits of all the hard work you’re putting in the gym by prepping balanced meals to help you recover and reach your goals as seamlessly as possible.