I feel so refreshed after taking a rest day from the gym yesterday. After working out twenty-six out of thirty days, I was feeling pretty tired, burned out, and sore. I decided to give my body 36 hours of rest, and I’m surprisingly excited for tonight’s workout. I’ve finally found something that I look forward to, and it’s making me feel so strong mentally and physically. It’s with the tough instructor that I now enjoy. I mentioned in my latest recap post how I was way too intimidated in her class the first time, and now I’m killing it. I’m using heavier weights, taking less breaks, and getting faster.
Nutrition plays a huge role in getting stronger, faster, and keeping energy levels up. I’ve always put in a ton of effort into finding the right foods to eat before and after a workout. I’ve been through a ton of trial and error as well. We all have different bodies, and we all respond differently to food, so I highly recommend talking with a nutritionist, or listening to your body, and experimenting with what works best for you. No one knows your body better than you do!
I’m always sharing my pre & post workout eats on the blog. I get asked about them a lot, and so I decided to put this post together to give you some ideas on what I eat, and how I learned how to eat for my workouts. I’ve spent years researching and getting ideas from the pros on what to fuel my body with before workouts. Today, I’m sharing what has worked for me!
I feel like I can’t stress this enough, so please keep in mind that these foods work for my body, so don’t be surprised if they don’t work for you, and always consult with a professional before making any major diet/fitness changes.
It doesn’t matter if your goal is to burn fat, lose weight, build muscle, or get in shape. Timing and proper nutrition are important for all of those things. I know when I’m not fueling properly. If I don’t pay attention to my pre/post workout, I have awful workouts. A terrible workout for me is one where I can’t wait until it’s over with. If I’m feeling lethargic, dehydrated, out of breath, or burned out, it’s most likely because I didn’t drink enough water, eat the right food, or give my body enough rest. Not only is eating right necessary for workouts but so is getting at least eight hours of sleep and proper hydration between workouts important.
It’s true. Timing is everything. Some people think that they shouldn’t eat after burning calories because it’ll prevent them from losing weight, but that’s not necessarily true. After a workout, your body will feel low on fuel. You need to get your blood sugar levels back up, restore water lost, and get protein into those muscles to help with recovery. The faster you recover, the faster you can get back to your next workout. And if you skip that post workout fuel, you may find yourself reaching for sugar and high carbohydrate foods later on. I know that if I don’t have time for a post workout meal, I crave desserts before bed. You can still give yourself a healthy calorie deficit for weight loss and eat after a workout. Timing!
Maybe you’re on a low-carb diet. Cool, do what works best for you! BUT, try to allow yourself those carbs before and after your workout. You can get your carbs from bananas, whole grain bread, or sweet potatoes. But your body needs those carbs to help build/repair muscle, get the energy to lift heavier, run faster, and stay focused. I like to eat my carbs 1-2 hours before a workout. If I have an 8 am a workout, I make sure to wake up at 5:30 am to eat. This helps your body prepare itself for an exercise, and you won’t have any issues with digestion while you’re at the gym. You don’t want to be killing it in the gym while your stomach is trying to digest. It won’t feel too good. I think for those who say “I have to workout on an empty stomach” may have tried working out way too soon after eating and adopted the idea that they have to work out before they eat. Before you stick to that plan, just try to eat something three hours in advance and playing around with different foods. Don’t get up and settle on the idea that you should work out before eating, remember, timing is everything. But, also you have to do what works for you!
So why carbs after a workout too? Your muscles glycogen storage gets depleted. Carbs help fill up the glycogen stores to help with recovery. If you don’t fuel the storage, your muscles will have a hard time healing, and you’ll find yourself sorer and for longer periods of time. If your glycogen stores are low, your blood sugar levels will also be low, and that is why post-workout protein + carbs are necessary. Protein will help you build muscle and repair after a workout. Did you know that the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn? That is why strength training is the best way to dig yourself out of the yo-yo diet lifestyle. I make sure to get at least 20g or protein after an hour of exercising and an additional 20g at every meal & 10g per snack (3 meals a day + 2 snacks.)
I eat my post workout fuel in 15-45 minutes after my workout. And then try to eat a protein rich meal two hours after that post-workout fuel. Above is a photo of my ideal meal after a post workout. (1/4 cup quinoa + 4 oz chicken breast +1/2 Cup Veggies) I also consume 20 ounces of water six times a day. I find that keeping room temperature water bottles around helps me drink more. Fueling on time will help me energetic, and keep me from craving sugar and carbs late in the evening.
I wanted to share some examples of foods I eat before my run (45min-60min) and HIIT (60 min) workouts.
HIIT workouts are tough. HIIT workouts are ideal for pushing your body, building muscle, burning calories, and getting in shape. They are cardio + weight circuits that skyrocket your heart rate. They require fuel, dedication, hydration, and sleep for recovery! I always plan to eat carbs with a bit of protein before an HIIT workout. I make sure to fuel 2-3 hours in advance. I have found that protein with my carbs before my HIIT workouts help me with energy levels.
1. Whole Grain Waffle + 1 Tbsp Peanut Butter + 1 Egg + 2 Egg Whites + 2 Slices Turkey Bacon (3 hours in advance/morning class)
2. 3 Egg Whites + Cottage Cheese + Peaches (1 hour in advance/evening class)
3. 1 Hard Boiled Egg + 1 Slice Whole Grain Braid + 1 Tbsp Peanut Butter + 1 Cup Blueberries (2 hours in advance)
4. Fresh Fruit + 1 Cup Greek Yogurt + 1/4 Cup Granola (2 hours in advance)
5. 4 Egg White + 1 Egg Omelet + English Muffin + Raspberry Jelly
6. 1 Banana + 1 Egg + 1 English Muffin + 1 Tablespoon Peanut Butter (2 hours in advance)
High carbohydrate and moderate protein after HIIT workout have been the most effective. If I am still feeling sluggish after one of these post-workout snacks, I will have a 20g protein shake.
1.Slice Whole Grain Bread + Veggies + Hummus
2. 1/2 Bagel + Cream Cheese + Jelly + 1/2 Banan
3. Greek Yogurt + Cereal + Berries
4. Protein Shake (20g Protein + Almond Milk + Banana + Raspberries)
5. 1 Whole Grain Waffle + 1 Tbsp Almond Milk + 1 Serving Muscle Milk
6. Skim Milk + 1 Cup Cereal + 1/2 Banana
Running nutrition is a bit different. I went through SO MANY trial and errors with this one. I learned that protein shakes, bacon, and pineapples did NOT sit well with my stomach before a run. I also learned that I preformed better when I had a little sugar (my favorite sugar source is actually jelly) to run on. High carb, low fiber, moderate protein, potassium, and low-fat meals worked best for me. The only fats that sat well with my stomach before an hour run was eggs and nut butter. All of my running meals were eaten two hours before a run. If you’re out on a run, pack gels or chews with you if you feel like crashing. Planting water in spots on your route is also smart if it’s hot outside. You may have all the right foods in your body, but if you’re not properly hydrated, you’ll crash. It should be your number one priority. If you have a hard time staying hydrated/cramping, try having a tablespoon of yellow mustard with water before you run. My basketball coach in high school had us do this, and it helped.
1. Packet Oatmeal + Banana + Strawberries
2. 1 Pancake + 1/2 Banana + Syrup + 1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt
3. 1 Bagel + Blueberry Cream Cheese
4. 1 Protein Waffle + 1 Egg + 1 Tablespoon Peanut Butter
5. 4 Scrambled Egg Whites + English Muffin + 1 Tbsp Butter + Jelly
6. Greek Yogurt + Banana + 1 Slice Toast
After a run, you’ll be feeling sluggish, but it’s usually followed by a runner’s high. After my hour runs, I always grabbed the water first. I think this is the most important! I feel best when I have a carb + protein fuel after my long runs. It took me a while to figure out what worked best after a run. I had to get fuel in me within a half hour after a run, or I’d get a headache and dizzy. Here are some of my favorite post-run fuels for an hour run. My post run is a lot like my pre run but with extra protein.
1. /2 Bagel + Cream Cheese + Eggs + Avocado (1-2 hour run)
2. Spaghetti Squash + Sauce + Turkey Meatballs
3. 4 Egg White Omelet + Whole Grain Waffle + Syrup
4. Fruit + Greek Yogurt + Granola + Chia seeds
5. Peanut Butter + Wrap + Black Berries + Banana
6. 1 Slice Toast + Apples + 4 Egg White Omelet
Questions For You!
1. Why is workout fuel important for you?
2. Have you ever had a workout fuel fail?