According to a Dietitian, This Is Exactly What You Should Eat Before and After Every Workout
A great workout starts before you step foot in the gym. We tend to focus a lot on the best workouts to achieve your goals and how to lose fat and build muscle, but nutrition often gets overlooked. It's just as important as what you're actually doing during the workout and can make or break your goals. Fueling your body with quality foods to have energy to perform and also to help your body recover is essential to achieving your goals.
Figuring out what you should eat before and after your workout can be overwhelming, which is why POPSUGAR spoke to Nicole Lund, MS, RDN, clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone's Sports Performance Center.
What You Should Eat Before Working Out
"Beforehand, nothing is really necessarily needed if it's later in the day or if they've eaten in the last four hours," Nicole told POPSUGAR. "Depending on the person and the intensity of the workout, you may look at something like 15 grams of carbohydrates before; that would be an appropriate snack."
"Carbohydrates are our body's most easy-to-utilize fuel," Nicole said. If you're planning on eating before a workout, definitely grab a carb-filled snack like rice cakes or a banana. Not only will you have more energy, but carbs will also elicit a hormonal response in your body, releasing insulin, which can reduce levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), she explained. Plus, Nicole said having a light carb before your workout will help spare glycogen, the stored fuel that you have in your muscles and liver, from being depleted.
If you're training first thing in the morning, Nicole recommends having 15 grams of carbohydrates and around 10 grams of protein. At the end of the day, Nicole explained, what you choose to consume before your workout won't make or break your performance, but having something beforehand can help you complete more exercises and perform better. Another benefit of having carbs prior to training is they can help with cognitive function and learning new skills.
What You Should Eat After Working Out
"The biggest mistake people make is that they add food," Nicole explained. First, she said to be aware of not adding more food, especially after lighter workouts like barre. "I do strongly believe in the recovery nutrition, but all the literature points to if it's a lighter workout, it's not necessarily going to make or break anything."
If you're doing more high-intensity workouts, Nicole said you should consume a combination of a carbohydrate and a protein. "The three big things are replacing any fluid loss (hydration) . . . electrolytes could also play a role in that . . . and [having] any sort of carbohydrate and protein combination."
Nicole recommends eating seven grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight and about 0.1 to 0.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. If you don't want to do the math, Nicole said 10 to 15 grams of protein and "some form of carbs" will suffice. Some examples of this: chocolate milk, a bar, carrots and hummus, crackers, yogurt, or just a well-rounded dinner. According to Nicole, the sooner you replenish your glycogen, glucose, protein, and amino acids, the better, as this will help prevent muscle tissue breakdown and aid in recovery.
No, This Won't Interfere With Your Weight-Loss Goals
If you're wondering whether eating before and after your workout will interfere with your weight-loss goals, it won't. "Most people shy away from eating, mostly if they're trying to lose weight, so I just reiterate to people: 'The fueling that happens before and after doesn't have to be on top of your caloric intake goals, it's just a matter of shifting the timing of it,'" Nicole explained.