By Jenna Culter
Optimal pre and post-workout nutrition are crucial for performance, improving energy levels, and enhancing beneficial exercise adaptations. Your body uses the energy stored from food to operate at peak performance and maximize recovery. While proper nutrition varies per person and workout, understanding the macronutrients’ link to exercise can better direct you towards knowing what and how to eat to reach your personal health goals.
The timing of your pre and post-workout meals is another key aspect of effective exercise.
The portion size of your pre-workout meal depends on whether your focus is building muscle or losing weight. It also depends on how much time you have between finishing your meal and starting your workout. Generally, it is best to eat a well-balanced meal containing carbs, proteins, and fats around 2 hours before exercise. Not everyone has the time to plan this far ahead though, so no need to stress if this sounds like you. Just remember that the sooner you eat before a workout, the smaller and simpler your meal should be.
Examples of properly timed pre-workout meals:
2-3 hours before or more:
Whole-grain toast, avocado, eggs
Lean protein (chicken, tuna, eggs), brown rice, vegetables
Oatmeal with berries, nut butter, mixed in protein powder
1-2 hours before:
Whole-grain toast with avocado (skip the eggs)
Oatmeal with berries and nut butter (skip the protein powder)
Whole-grain toast with nut butter
1 hour or less:
1 piece of fruit: apple, banana, orange
1 cup of berries
Greek or plant-based yogurt
Light protein bar with simple ingredients
After working out, your muscles are partially depleted of glycogen (stored glucose/energy). The protein in your muscles may also become damaged. While your body does the work to restore this muscle glycogen and protein, eating nutrient-dense foods speeds up the process. Therefore, it’s important to eat within 30 minutes of finishing your workout for quicker and better recovery.
Examples of balanced post-workout meals:
Whole-grain wrap, scrambled eggs, spinach, avocado
Quinoa, grilled chicken, roasted vegetables cooked in avocado oil
Whole-grain toast, nut butter, banana, chia seeds
Oats, protein powder, fruit, nut butter
Protein shake: protein powder, banana, spinach, nut butter, nut milk, ice
Turkey burger, sweet potato, mixed-green side salad
Chickpeas, basmati rice, veggies
Whole-wheat or chickpea pasta, grass-fed beef meatballs, side of veggies
Ultimately, fueling your body with the right food is essential to getting the most out of your workouts. Keep in mind that the information above lists general guidelines for pre and post-workout nutrition. To better understand your own dietary needs, NextGeneration Nutrition can provide you with specific guidelines and programs tailored to your individual goals!
Jessica Mantell M.S., C.N.S., L.D.N.
CEO & Founder of NextGeneration Nutrition
NextGeneration Nutrition believes that better health should be accessible to everyone and that we all are able to improve our health through good nutrition, physical activity, and lifestyle change. We do not support setting shame-based goals but encourages embracing our bodies, genetics, and personality. Our philosophy is abandoning the “One Size Fits All” mentality to create a personalized wellness plan based on your biological makeup and your lifestyle.
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