For many of us, hitting the gym means burning calories and achieving the perfect body; however, nutritionists and fitness experts all agree that the calories we consume right before and right after a workout are crucial in determining whether or not we reach our workout goals. Eat too much and you’ll be left feeling sluggish and uncomfortable during even the lightest cardio routine; eat too little and you’re unlikely to have the energy needed to go the extra mile. Pre-workout, you need to prep your body with a healthy snack no more than 150-200 calories. You want to provide yourself an appropriate energy boost to take on your work out session, without adding excessive calories. The reason why we steer away from junk food pre-work out, aside from the obvious reasons of wreaking havoc on your waistline and adding superfluous calories to your diet, is that these foods require a long time to digest and will make you uncomfortable during an extended exercise session.
Foods that are higher in protein and complex carbohydrates and low in sugar are ideal for snacking on before stepping into the gym. Here are just a few suggestions of great pre-workout snacks:
• Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit
• A whole-grain English muffin smeared with a little peanut butter
• An apple and a piece of low-fat cheese
• A handful of unsalted nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, and a piece of fruit
If you’re a protein-bar kind of person, be careful when reading the labels. Today, many protein bars are loaded with sugar and will hinder, not help, your work out. Be on the lookout for bars that have less than 7 grams of sugar and less than 10 grams of fat. Look for bars that have greater than 20 grams of carbohydrates, but make sure that protein makes up half of this figure.
Don’t forget that what you eat after a workout is just as important as what you eat before. It’s imperative not to cancel out a successful and intensive work out session by binging on unhealthy foods. Again, aim for a balance of carbs and protein. Try a small portion of whole-grain pasta with a side salad (light dressing on the side). Other healthy options to consider are grilled chicken breast and grilled salmon, with a side of brown rice and veggies. Grilled chicken is a lean meat that provides loads of protein. Salmon is not only a good source of vitamin D and antioxidants, but also of omega-3 fats, which have been proven to reduce inflammation and prevent a host of medical conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.
Apart from monitoring your nutrient intake, it is also necessary to drink a lot of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration. During your work out, take sips of water between each exercise interval. You want to stay hydrated as you sweat without making your stomach feel heavy. Proper hydration and nutrition are sure to maximize any of your work out efforts and give your body and lifestyle healthy, lasting results.
What kind of pre/post-workout snacks do you eat? I’ll be honest, since I work out early in the mornings I rarely eat beforehand unless it’s a weekend long run, and then I fall into the stereotypical toast-pb-banana category. As for post workout, I usually have a glass of milk.