Best Workout Foods: What to Eat Before and After

Ever wonder what are the best workout foods to eat before and after a sweaty workout? It’s no longer acceptable to just grab anything and hope for the best! There’s even supporting research that shows the benefits of proper nutrition and your workout results.  Some experts would say your results are driven by 80% of what you eat – not how you train.  If you’re serious about your fitness and body goals – want to lose body fat and tighten up those muscles, it’s important to have a proper eating plan.  Eating the right foods at the right times will go a long way for getting and maintaining a knockout body.  Keep reading for a few key tips about the best workout foods you should eat before and after your workouts.

But First, Should You Eat Before Your Workout?

What you eat before you workout will depend on a few factors – when was your last meal and what are your fitness goals?  If it was within the last 1 to 2 hours, you more than likely have enough fuel in the tank to go the distance during your workout.   If it’s been over 2 hours since your last meal, you could experience a workout fail without eating something.  Research has shown that most people are continually in a feed state – that means they have a surplus of calories floating in the tank that can be used for an efficient workout.  Therefore, if you’ve had a meal recently before your workout – no need to stress about not eating.

Next, you should consider your fitness goals.  Are you trying to burn fat and lose weight? Then it’s important to direct your body with your nutrition.  If you’re Holding onto fat – the body has a source of energy to utilize.  If you feed the body with carbs, it will use this as its main source of energy instead of burning through the fat it has stored during your workout.  In this case – you will not require a heavy carb based meal, but rather a high protein one.  If your goal is building and maintaining your muscle – you’ll need a balance of both carbs and protein.  Carbs to keep you energized and protein to keep those muscles sustained.

Your workout is the last component.  If you’re workouts are focused on lifting weights and low on the  cardio – you probably won’t require too much carbs; however if you’re workouts are focused on cardio – running or spinning, explosive drills like HIIT or heavy conditioning workouts you’ll more than likely  require more carbs in your pre-workout meal.

What Should You Eat Before Your Workout?

Looking to gain and maintain lean muscle – protein and carbs is your best bet when it comes to a pre-workout meal.  Looking to drop fat weight or maintain your lean condition, consider dropping or lowering the carbs and focusing on protein for your pre-workout meal.  Here are a few meal ideas to eat before your workout…

  • Protein smoothie with 1 scoop of whey or plant-based protein, berries (1/4 cup), coconut or almond milk or water blended with ice
  • Apple with 2-tablespoons of almond butter or any nut butter
  • Greek yoghurt (1 cup) with berries (1/4 cup), 1 tablespoon of no-added sugar granola
  • Hummus or Labneh with veggie sticks – carrots, celery and capsicum
  • Protein oats with oatmeal (1/3 cup), blueberries or strawberries (1/4 cup), scoop of whey protein, skim milk, almond milk or coconut milk
  • Protein Shake with scoop of whey or plant-based protein, with 1 oz of nuts – almonds or walnuts or blended with 1 tablespoon of nut butter
  • Banana with 2-tablespoons peanut butter or any nut butter
  • Grilled chicken breast or tilapia (100 g) with sautéed or steamed vegetables (1 cup)
  • Green salad (2 cups) with tuna (100 g) and olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice

Benefits of Eating Post-Workout

While its true that during a workout the muscles do use and access protein and stored muscle glycogen also known as carbs, most of us actually use less than we think.  Research has shown the positive effects of post-workout nutrition using a carb load.  However, many of these studies were completed on high-level athletes who were fasted or were using exercise protocols beyond normal athletic abilities.  So unless you’re blasting through serious calories like an endurance athlete or training on a calorie deficit, you should be more concerned about getting your protein needs met over carbs.

During a workout, the nitrogen balance in the muscles can be disrupted and when that happens, the muscle-building processes can shut down.  As you lift weights and use your muscles, protein turnover occurs.  This is the rate at which protein degradation or muscle breakdown increases and the rate at which skeletal muscle protein synthesis or muscle building decreases. If protein is not replenished, muscle breakdown can result.  After a workout, this breakdown will continue until the right nutrition is received.

What Should You Eat After Your Workout?

Consider your workout – cardio or weight focused?  If you’re performing intense cardio and conditioning workouts you’ll definitely need to top up the carbs after your workout.  Looking to drop weight and drive fat burning?  Lower the carbs and focus on getting a high quality source of protein.  No matter the workout program, protein should always be the main component. Here are a few ideas to get you started…

  • Protein Smoothie: half a frozen banana, 1 scoop of whey or plant-based protein powder, ½ cup of almond milk, 1 tablespoon of nut butter
  • Kale Salad:  chopped kale, capsicum, tomato, roast pumpkin or sweet potato chunks and chicken breast (120 g), olive oil and vinegar or lemon
  • Protein Oats: quick oats (1/3 cup), chia seeds ( 1 teaspoon), almond milk, scoop of whey or plant based protein and berries (1/4 cup)
  • Veggie Omelet: 2 eggs with sautéed vegetables and half a small avocado
  • Grilled Salmon:  120 g salmon filet, half baked white potato and broccoli (1 cup)
  • Grilled Chicken Breast:  120 g grilled chicken breast with half a baked sweet potato or sautéed or steamed green veggies

Until Next Time,

Be Fierce & Rule the World


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