Proper eating habits can be the difference between seeing and feeling significant results or not. It can often be overlooked by some athletes as they pack their gym bags in the morning or race to a class after work. In some cases, if you don’t have time to eat or hydrate before working out, it can leave you fatigued, hurting your ability to maximize your exercise session. Working out during the summer months also creates its own challenges.
We are often asked by our clients about what to eat both before and after a workout. Quick disclaimer: we are not certified nutritionists --everyone’s body has a nutrition plan that works for them so reach out to your nutritionist if you have specific dietary restrictions.
We can suggest a few options that have worked for our staff at TS Fitness.
Regardless of the type of workout that you are about to embark on, it is critical to be fully hydrated. Noam suggests drinking at least 16 oz of water in the two hours leading up to your workout. If you are exercising in the morning, try to consume a glass of water right after you wake up. Working out dehydrated can leave you with low energy and at risk for muscle spasms. If you are exercising during the summer, make sure hydrate before, during, and after your workout.
Proper hydration should not be seen simply as an exercise prerequisite but as part of a healthy lifestyle. Noam suggests drinking water throughout the day with an end goal of consuming about ¾ of an ounce of water per every pound of body weight. You can actually eat your water, too: vegetables usually contain a fair amount of water and can offset your fluid intake.
If you hate drinking water, try putting fruits like lemon or herbs like mint in your water, which adds flavor without any substantial calories.
Remember that you are working out to build a better, stronger you so by taking your pre- and post-workout meals seriously, it makes hitting your fitness goals easier and quicker.
We recommend trying to get all your nutritional needs from whole, real, unprocessed foods, as opposed to store, bought bars or processed packaged shakes. We look for 3 things in a pre-workout snack:
Carbs (energy source)
Satiety (so you're not hungry again in 20 mins)
Digestibility (so that you're able to move easily and not have anything weighing you down)
The following foods can fit the bill:
One piece of fruit like an apple or banana, or a handful of berries
Sprouted grain toast with almond butter and/or banana
Homemade energy balls made with dried fruit, oats, nut butters, etc.
Don’t forget that timing is really important. Ideally, you should be eating 2-3 hours before your workout. Obviously, that is much simpler if you have a 6:30pm HIIT class booked rather than a morning session. If do find yourself with less time to eat (like 45 minutes before a workout), your snack should be smaller and simpler, containing mostly carbs. No 6am steak and potato breakfasts. (See our note on digestibility!)
A few of our trainers like to have a small cup of coffee (no sugar) before a workout. Caffeine may improve workout performance in some athletes. And as for sports drinks--skip them. While sports drinks may have some vitamins and electrolytes, their high sugar content is quickly absorbed and burned by your system. You may even experience a sugar crash afterwards.
It is vital that you eat after you exercise to replace the calories that you burned and replenish your body’s glycogen stores. It is best to eat within 30 minutes of completing your workout. If you finished a GPT session which is based on metabolic resistance training (MRT), Noam suggests consuming at least 30 grams of lean protein. If you skip a meal after working out, your body will miss out on the necessary repair process, which may leave you fatigued in the short term, and delay you from meeting your fitness goals.
Depending on the time of your workout, Noam recommends the following combinations of protein and carbs to replenish your system:
Egg white omelet with vegetables
Lean meat or fish
Rice and beans, if you avoid animal products