Nutrition is every bit as important (if not more important) to getting fit as exercise is, so it’s important to know what to eat and when to eat it. Here we look at what to eat before a workout, which should help improve your performance and help speed up your recovery.
Different exercises can alter the type of snack or meal you should eat before a workout. With exercises that focus on strength, for example resistance training, it’s beneficial for you to eat something that is both high in carbohydrates and protein. The carbs will give your body the energy it needs throughout your workout, while the protein is essential once the exercise is over to help your muscles recover.
When to Eat
It’s best not to do your strength exercises on a full stomach, so try and keep your snack light and eat it approximately an hour before your exercise. There are many suitable snacks you could choose from, ranging from a tuna sandwich to a banana and some Greek yogurt. Try and find a snack that’s got over 15 grams of protein and over 20 grams of carbs.
Cardiovascular exercise, for example jogging or cycling, doesn’t necessarily require that you have a snack prior to exercise unless you plan to perform it longer than an hour. Just try and make sure that your main meals consist of high carb foods like potatoes and pasta, which will help to keep your glycogen stores full. Glycogen is the energy that your muscles use, and it’s depleted during any physical exercise.
If your ultimate aim in this form of exercise is to aid in weight loss it is best to eat after you have had a workout and it helps to burn up the fat stores. If you plan to be exercising for over an hour it would be a good idea to have a high carb snack prior to commencing. The recommended time is at least 45 minutes before. Try not to eat something that has high-calorie content as it will lie in your stomach for longer and exercising may become uncomfortable (try to stay away from the high protein foods for this reason). An energy bar or even a banana would be ideal.
Once you have completed a cardio workout, eating within the hour after completion is imperative to help restore your muscles glycogen stores which will be depleted after exercising. If you don’t plan to have a decent meal, at least have a high carb snack to tide you over.
When you have completed a resistance workout it is important to choose a snack that has both carbohydrates and a decent amount of protein. The reason for this being that your muscles break down after these sorts of exercises and the protein assists with muscle recovery. Having a protein shake made with milk and bulking it up some fruit is a great snack to have. Check out our whey protein guide for more information.
When exercising for any length of time it is important to hydrate your body. Water is best for exercise that lasts up to an hour and drinking at regular intervals during is advised. Exercise over an hour-long would benefit from drinking sports drinks as they replace what your body loses through perspiration and helps to balance the body’s electrolytes.