Exercise isn’t just about hitting the gym or pounding the pavement and then taking a shower. It’s also about giving your body the food it needs before and after you work out.
A pre-workout snack will help you perform your best and get an effective workout. And, a post-workout snack will help you rehydrate and restore your body.
When choosing a pre-workout snack, aim for something that will give you slow-burning carbs for quick energy and lean protein to help build and repair muscle tissue. To avoid cramping and nausea, aim for foods that are low in fibre and ‘bad’ fat (as opposed to the ‘good fat’ in avocados for example. And, make sure its something that you like to eat, otherwise you probably won’t eat it, even it it’s for the sake of your health. For optimal benefits, eat one to two hours before your workout.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Cheese: Mozzarella sticks are easily portable in your gym bag. Keep in a plastic container with some grapes to nibble on for an instant blast of protein.
3. Chicken sandwich: Just be sure that the chicken isn’t fried (consider lightly grilled with a drizzle of olive oil) and opt for mustard or hot sauce rather than calorie-packed mayo. Put it on whole-wheat bread or a whole-wheat bun.
4. Smoothie: Sip on a healthy smoothie with ingredients such as fresh fruit and non-fat yogurt. Since it’s served chilled, this light, sweet and hydrating beverage will cool your body before you work out, leaving you refreshed.
5. Banana with peanut butter: Reap the health benefits of both — spread one to two tablespoons of peanut butter on a banana.
6. Ants on a log: Eat like a kid! Take some celery, spread peanut butter on the hollow side and top with raisins.
7. Fruit and nut bar: For a portable and energising snack, try a fruit and nut bar. Look for ones that list nuts and dried fruit at the beginning of the ingredients list and check for hidden nasties as they can be packed with extra calories, refined sugar and additives. Avoid ingredients like glycerol or sugar alcohols as they can cause cramps, bloating and abdominal pain. You’ll get carbs to fuel your muscles, plus they’ll give you energy thanks to being rich in protein, fibre and good-for-you fats.
8. Whole-wheat toast with jam: If you’re doing short-distance running or sprints, a simple slice of toast has light and easily digestible carbs to give you energy.
9. Energy balls: Last but certainly not least, are these energy balls which you can make yourself at home and ensure that they’re packed with ingredients which you love.
Here are some ideas for what to snack on after you work out. To reap your foods’ restorative powers, refuel 30 to 45 minutes after you cool down.
1. Non-fat or low-fat chocolate milk with whole-grain salted pretzels
Chocolate milk is a well-kept secret for recovery, especially for endurance athletes like cyclists, swimmers, long-distance runners and triathletes. It offers protein and sugars, both of which you’ll need after a long workout. (If you’re a vegan, try a flavoured soy or almond milk.) Plus, you can buy pre-made bottles of the milk or put some in a water bottle, making it easily portable. Munch on the pretzels to help you regain the sodium you sweat out.
2. Non-fat or low-fat plain Greek yogurt with fruit or granola
Top this protein-brimming yet low-fat yogurt with cup of sliced banana, carb-filled berries or some granola.
3. Tuna on whole wheat
This sandwich packs a carb-and-protein punch and is low in calories to boot. Put 4 ounces of water-packed tuna (a lean protein) on a slice of whole-wheat bread. Flavour by drizzling some lemon juice and olive oil on top. Or, you could use wild smoked salmon with sliced avocado – heavenly!
4. Banana with almond butter
Munch on a banana and top it with 1 tablespoon of almond butter, which offers protein and a healthy fat. Almond butter is high in calories though, so consume in moderation.
5. Whole-grain waffles with non-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt and almond butter
Top a frozen waffle with 1 tablespoon of almond butter and some low-fat Greek yogurt. This snack provides an ideal combination of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat. As an alternative to yoghurt, you could always make your own probiotic-packed kefir.
Your next question might be, ‘How much should I eat?’ and, ‘What should I eat?’. Those answers vary from person to person depending on your exercise routines, daily activities, the time of day, intensity of your workout and how long youre working out.
You could consider keeping a journal how you feel during and after you exercise once you’ve had your snacks. That way, you’ll get a better picture of your habits and can make any necessary changes to what and how much you’re eating to feel your best.
What are your favourite workout snacks? Let us know in the comments below…