This may come as a surprise, but how you fuel your body before and after a workout is just as important as your workout itself! To prepare and compensate for the energy that you output in an intense sweat-inducing session, your body needs healthy food to increase stamina and aid in muscle regeneration. But here’s the rub – you can’t just eat anything and expect the same stellar results. There are certain foods that have been scientifically proven to help your body maintain energy and feel great through concentrated training. And what’s the point of doing all of that exercise unless you are also paying attention to what goes into the body?
If you’ve ever wondered what to eat before a workout, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for helpful tips and delicious snacks that will keep your motor humming and your body feeling great.
When it comes to preparing for your workout, a mix of complete protein and carbs are incredible. First, eating protein before a workout actually fuels for your muscles, helps you burn more calories, and keeps the amino acid levels high in the body. This in turn will ensure that your muscles suffer less breakdown after your workout concludes. Find a high quality source of protein with whole food, natural ingredients, and try blending it into a smoothie or creating high protein snacks like these raw chocolate chip cookie dough protein bites.
Another great pre-training snack is the banana, which is often called “nature’s power bar.” Bananas raise potassium levels, which decrease as you sweat during a strenuous workout. They deliver the perfect punch of carbohydrate energy that your body needs to get through your training session, without weighing you down. Even better, pair the banana with whole wheat toast, your favorite nut butter and Ceylon cinnamon to really amp up your energy. This pairing provides your body with both complex and simple carbs to allow for a steady, controlled release of energy as you exercise, as well protein from the nut butter. And scientific studies show that cinnamon stabilizes blood sugar and improves brain function.
The Peruvian root maca is another brilliant selection to consume pre-exercise. Maca has been shown to increase energy and stamina, and has many other health benefits. The use of maca root began as early as 3800 BC, when it was used by indigenous cultures as food and medicine, and continues to be a popular pre-workout snack for athletes, especially in South American countries.
Want more ideas? Chickpeas are an easy to prepare (no cooking involved!) pre-workout all-star. Just one quarter cup provides around 10 grams of protein, 30 grams of healthy carbohydrates and 9 grams of fiber. Other fantastic pre-workout snacks include whole food sprouts like quinoa, millet, oats and amaranth, and whole fruits or vegetables. Just make sure to wait about 30 to 45 minutes after you eat before you begin exercising, to allow for digestion.
There are also foods that are best to avoid completely when you are preparing to exercise. Stay away from heavy, fatty foods, as they will cause you to feel sluggish and less energetic. Also steer clear of sources of raw sugar like candy or soda. Although these foods include carbohydrates (which we’ve already established are good sources of energy pre-workout), they are pure sugar and will cause a sugar rush and inevitable crash, most likely when you are in the middle of your workout. Stick to whole foods, quality sources of proteins, and plant-based options to really get the most out of your workout.
The overall takeaway? What you put into your body matters and is directly correlated to how well you work out. You absolutely will feel the difference if you fuel yourself in a healthy way before you exercise – and you will see the results in the quality, length, and intensity of your workouts. So grab a banana or enjoy a protein shake before you hit the gym. Trust us – you won’t regret it!
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- Kati Mora, Fitness Magazine, “What to Eat Before and After a Workout,” http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/healthy-eating/nutrition/best-workout-foods/
- Men’s Fitness, “Best Pre-Workout Foods,” http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/best-pre-workout-foods