What To Eat Before And After Your Workout

If you’re spending time and money working out, we’d guess that you’d like to be getting the most out of your nutrition as well. If you’re wondering what to eat before or after a workout, you’re not alone. It’s a common question here at BootCampSF.

And you’re right…your nutrition is an important aspect of your fitness. What we eat has a huge impact on our health goals and how we perform in our workouts.

Let’s give you some info on how and what to eat right before and after your workout so you can get the most out of every last push up and burpee.

First of all, you should be familiar with the macronutrients. The three macronutrients are protein, fat and carbohydrates. The most common to approach pre and post workout meals is by playing around with these macronutrients.

Before a workout

What:
Simple carbohydrates + protein + little/no fat

When:
Meal 1-2 hours before
OR
snack less than 60 minutes before

Why:
To fuel your workout you want to eat a meal or snack prior to working out with enough time to digest. Carbohydrates are the easiest food for our bodies to convert to energy so it makes sense that that carbohydrates that are easy to digest is what we want to eat right before a workout. These are called simple carbohydrates.

What is a simple carb? Fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains are healthy, whole-food simple carb options. (By “whole food” we mean non processed. For example, cereal is a carb but highly processed one. Try to choose carbs in their whole food states).

We also want to include protein in your pre workout meal. Protein will help balance your blood sugar and help prevent muscle breakdown for after the workout.

If you’re eating a snack less than 1 hour before a workout, too much fat might make you feel nauseous or slow you down. Avoid proceed foods, sugars, coffee and other stimulants right before working out.

In general, think light and easy to digest foods.

What to reach for if you’re snacking:

  •  banana or green apple + nut butter
  •  berries +  organic cottage cheese or organic full fat yogurt
  •  hard boiled egg

What to reach for if you’re eating a meal:

  • egg scramble with onion, tomatoes and black beans
  • steel cut oatmeal topped with nuts, seeds and berries
  • leafy green salad + serving of chicken, salmon or steak + garbanzo beans + quinoa + vegetables like bell peppers and cucumber + olive oil and vinegar.

After a workout

What:
Protein + Healthy Fat + Carbohydrates

When:
Meal 1-2 hours after
OR
Snack less than 60 minutes after

Why:
Post workout nutrition is all about balance of our three macronutrients. We need protein for recovery and repair. Protein is also the nutrient that enables us to grow new muscles. However, no need to feel guilty if you didn’t slam down a protein shake. A balanced regular ‘ol meal or snack is all you need.

Regardless of in the intensity of our workout, we use up our stored carbohydrates. Replacing these carbohydrates “re-stocks” our energy stores to be used in our next workout.

Including a healthy fat (avocado, nuts and seeds, virgin oils) will make the meal a “balanced” meal and keep us feeling satiated. The key here is balance and nutrient density.

Bottom Line
If you regularly workout 3-5X per week for 1 hour or less just remember a balanced and unprocessed diet with sufficient protein and vegetable intake is all you need. Choosing quality foods will trump when you eat every time. And choosing foods that make you feel best trump any “rule” or “should”.

Actionable Step
Next time you eat, think about the three macronutrients. Ask yourself: does this meal/snack have…

Protein?
Fat?
Carbohydrates?

Pretty soon, you’ll be eating balanced meals like a pro and feeling so energized you just might do an extra burpee…just because you feel like it.