You can’t drive a car without some gas in the tank, and your body’s no different. That means that when it comes to pre- and post-workout snacks, what you fuel up with matters.
Not sure where to start? Don’t focus too much on your skill level: Whether you’re training for your next triathlon or in the early phases of that Couch to 5K, eating right is still important. And here’s a secret for you: There is more to workout food than protein shakes and energy bars. So, let’s get to it.
What to Eat Before a Workout
When you exercise on an empty stomach, chances are good you’ll find yourself feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseated. Eating beforehand gives you the energy to power through.
This is how to fuel your body to perform at its best:
- Go for easily digested carbohydrates, which are great for increasing your blood sugar quickly and give you a quick energy boost before exercising. Think bananas, bagels, toast.
- Limit fat and protein: Though healthy and essential as part of your diet, they take longer to digest–leaving you feeling full and potentially uncomfortable. The last thing you want is a bloated stomach when you're trying to run, twist, or do a downward dog.
- Drink two or three cups of water about two hours prior to exercise. Hydration doesn’t happen instantly: Your body needs time to put that water to use! Staying hydrated is an all-day process.
- Drink one cup of water about 10 minutes before exercise. This will help keep you from feeling thirsty immediately after your workout begins.
If you like to work out in the morning, how’s pizza sound? Try these English Muffin Breakfast Pizzas. You can even prep them ahead of time for the week and freeze them individually for up to three months. If you’re usually craving something sweet in the mornings, this Oatmeal Power Bowl with Peanut Butter Drizzle features high-quality carbs like oats and banana, plus nutrient-packed chia seeds, which are beloved for their anti-inflammatory benefits.
If you want to make sure you have a healthy snack ready to go when you need it, try these Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars. Ingredients like oats and Egg Beaters Original will leave you feeling full and satisfied, and you could even experiment with replacing the brown sugar with a banana or some applesauce.
If you prefer midday or evening workouts, you might want lunch or dinner first. Grilled Salmon with Soy Glaze is hearty and satisfying, and when served with brown basmati rice, gives you the carbs you need to power through your workout.
If you often find yourself without much down time to prep, grab a piece of fruit or make some whole-grain toast before sweating it out. You could try this Mixed Berry Smoothie Bowl, which blends together in minutes. Start with a half portion if you're about to kick off your workout.
What to Eat After a Workout
Failing to eat after your workout is detrimental, too. Snacking after a sweat sesh helps you recover faster and avoid feeling lethargic and depleted later in the day.
You need to eat to help your body recover:
- Eat within 60 minutes of exercising; sooner is better. If you skip a post-workout meal, you will likely feel your energy tank later in the day.
- Choose high-quality carbohydrates and protein. Your body needs these nutrients to start repairing the muscles and help you recover.
- Drink about three cups of water for every pound of weight lost during exercise. That lost weight is mostly water weight that you’re shedding out in sweat. Try weighing yourself before and after exercise to get an idea of how much water you've lost. Replace that to ensure proper hydration!
If you always seem to find yourself with a jam-packed schedule, meal prep might free you up a bit.
This Southwest Quinoa Skillet can be prepared the night before; bring it with you to just reheat in the microwave the next day and it’s ready to go. It's a flexible recipe made with a can of Rosarita® Premium Whole Black Beans, RO*TEL® Original Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilis, and white quinoa, so you can easily add whatever vegetables you'd like. Double or triple it for lunches throughout the week and throw on extra toppings (cheese, anyone?) or put some into a tortilla for a quick burrito.
Sometimes even the easiest recipes feel like too much effort–we totally get it. Try a low-carb Spicy Beef Teriyaki or Basil Pesto Chicken Healthy Choice® Grain Free Power Bowls, both of which use a riced cauliflower base instead of a grain and are ready to eat in minutes.
Keep a whole rotation of simple dinner options on hand: Use Egg Beaters® Original to make California-Style Omelets–feel free to toss in whatever fresh veggies you have in the fridge for some extra nutritional benefit. Or make a batch of Mediterranean Chicken Pita Pockets, which can be ready in about 30 minutes and are made with a creamy, yogurt-based dill sauce. For another hearty sit-down meal following your workout, we love this Tilapia with Black Beans and Corn, ready to eat in about 20 minutes (try doubling the salsa recipe for a fresh chip dip the next day!).
Workout-friendly food doesn’t have to be limited to protein bars, shakes, and supplements. Real life calls for real food, and you can get all the nutrients you need from delicious, easy-to-prepare meals.