Contributed by: Shellie Billingsley, NASM-CPT, NPTI
Intensity and duration play a huge role when determining what to eat before and after a workout, and there is no exact formula that fits every individual. Listed below are suggested guidelines regarding pre- and post-workout snacks to help you fuel properly before and after exercise since it’s best not to workout on an empty stomach and even more important to fuel after exercising.
• Eat approximately 45 minutes before exercise. Moderate or intense exercise on an empty stomach can lead to fatigue, nausea, and the break-down of muscle tissue.
• Consume approximately 30 grams of a simple carbohydrate. This can help stimulate insulin, which allows you to use that carbohydrate for energy during exercise. This fuel can help stimulate fat oxidation, or the break-down of fat, after your workout.
• Consume little to no fat before exercise. In a healthy or overweight individual, the body already has sufficient or excess fat that can be used for energy.
• Consume little to no fiber before exercise. Fiber is indigestible; you’ll want your body to absorb the nutrients you consume.
Examples of good pre-workout snacks:
• Fruit, this is a simple carbohydrate; is a whole food, and meets the criteria above.
• Eat within 15-45 minutes after your workout. This timeframe has proved be optimal for maximum recovery and refueling of the depleted glycogen stores in your muscles.
• Use a 2:1 or 3:1 carb to protein ratio. The ration depends on the intensity and duration of your workout. The carb ratio is higher, because your body cannot synthesize and use protein for fuel; protein is used to rebuild tissue.
• Consume little to no fat after a workout. Your goal is to burn fat, thus consuming fats post-workout may lead to excess storage of fat.
• Consume little to no fiber post-workout; you want your body to absorb the nutrients you consume after you exercise moderately or intensely (the goal is to replenish the fuel and maximize recovery).
Examples of post-workout snacks:
• Fat-free chocolate milk. A smoothie such as whey or plant-based protein powder blended with fruit.