Eating in relation to exercise can be really complicated… and it can also be really simple.
Let’s simplify it. What and when you eat is important, because it affects your workout performance and recovery. If you’re a series athlete, you’ll want the guidance of a sports nutrition expert. Non-serious athletes, your goal is to simply be well fueled and hydrated.
Before Your Workout
Regardless of what time of day you exercise, it’s good to have a healthy meal about three to four hours prior. This meal should be rich in carbohydrates and protein. For example, whole grain pasta with tomato sauce and cooked chicken. Avoid fatty foods, because they will tie up your digestive resources and slow you down.
Then have a healthy, light snack about an hour prior to your workout, such as apple slices with peanut butter.
Smoothies are a portable, easy-to-digest choice for an early morning workout, since your last meal was the evening prior. For example, a smoothie of frozen mango, almond milk, and a tablespoon of hemp hearts will give you the energy that you need as you head to your 6 a.m. bootcamp or spin class.
After Your Workout
Be sure to eat within an hour after you exercise, because this is when your muscles most readily replenish their glycogen stores. If you don’t eat within this timeframe, you’ll likely be ravishingly hungry later and make poor food choices. Remember, extra calories that your body does not require get stored as fat.
This post-workout snack or meal should again be rich in carbohydrates and protein. For example, Greek yogurt and granola. If you exercise later in the evening, have just a light snack before you go to bed.
Hydration with plain water is important before, during, and after your workout. It’s not a great idea to guzzle a litre of water right before you begin to exercise, but instead ensure you drink water throughout the day. This way, thirst will be a non-issue once your workout begins. Because you lose water as sweat, this needs to be replaced post-workout.