Foods for workouts

Keeping our bodies active is really important. But, have you ever heard the saying, “You can’t outwork a bad diet?” Now that’s the truth. Quality diet and exercise go hand in hand when it comes to staying fit and healthy. Understanding the types of nutrients your body needs to help support exercise will help you nail down your pre- and post-workout meals so you can reap the best results. Keep in mind, your nutrition and hydration needs may be different depending on how intense your exercise is and how long you exercise for.

What to eat before a workout

Eating before a workout is a good habit to get into. Your body runs on carbohydrates during exercise, so making sure you’re giving your body the proper fuel beforehand is key to a successful workout. Try to have a pre-workout snack or small meal 1 to 3 hours ahead of time. Eating right before you hit the gym could cause indigestion.

When choosing foods to eat before a workout, focus on what will give you a boost of energy and keep you full while you’re in workout mode. Here are some ideas for a good pre-workout snack:1

  • Coffee or latte and a piece of fruit (for the early-riser exercisers)
  • Oats and whole grains (like oatmeal), a banana and milk
  • Fruit smoothie or protein shake
  • Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
  • Rice cake with a sugar-free nut butter
  • Fresh fruit, like a banana or apple, and a hard-boiled egg

Staying hydrated during a workout

With so many different kinds of sports drinks and workout powders, it can be difficult to know what to drink to stay hydrated during your workout. Good old H2O is usually your best bet. Many artificial exercise drinks have additives and sugar. A safe plan is to stick with water. Here’s how much to shoot for:1

  • Before exercise: 2–3 cups
  • During exercise: 1 cup every 15–20 minutes
  • After exercise: 2–3 cups for every pound you lose during exercise

A simple way to track your daily water intake is to make sure you’re drinking at least half your body weight in ounces. (And even more if you’re super active.) If you’ve got intense workouts planned, grabbing a sugar-free sports drink or coconut water may help replenish lost electrolytes.

Benefits of drinking water

Drinking water does wonders for our bodies. Here are some of the ways water may help improve your well-being:2

  • Lubricates joints
  • Supports healthy organs and cells
  • Aids digestion
  • Boosts energy
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Improves skin

Foods to eat after a workout

Eating after a workout helps your body recover. Starting that recovery process early can also help with muscle soreness, tightness and cramping. Eat and drink within an hour of wrapping up your workout, and as early as 15 minutes after you towel off. By this time, your body is ready to refuel and build back muscle tissue with healthy carbs and amino acids from protein. Even if your post-workout stomach can only handle some dairy or plant-based chocolate milk, it’s better to get a little something in your system right away.

The best thing to eat after a workout could be the same as your go-to pre-workout food. Looking for something a little more filling than a post-workout snack? Try one of these whole food meals:3

  • Salmon, sweet potato and broccoli
  • Grilled chicken, brown rice and vegetables
  • Bean and vegetable burrito in a whole-grain tortilla

The best post-workout meal should have your choice of healthy protein and carbohydrates, and some vegetables. As you make your meal, be mindful not to overeat and stay well-hydrated for muscle recovery.

Foods to avoid before or after working out

It’s probably no surprise that you’ll want to stay away from rich, greasy and fatty foods around your workouts. (Fat takes longer to digest, which could lead to a not-so-happy stomach.) And depending on your body, high-fiber foods may not sit well close to exercise. Those are things like beans, avocados — and certain nut and fruits. If your pre- or post-snack includes trail mix, be sure to choose nuts and fruits you know your body digests well. Every body is different and it may take some time to know which foods are best for your body and your fitness goals.