If your workout goals are to look like an “after” photo, but you find that getting past your “before” pic is proving difficult, consider what you’re eating before, during and after you exercise. According to the National Institutes of Health: “Nutrition can help enhance athletic performance. An active lifestyle and exercise routine, along with eating well, is the best way to stay healthy.” The biggest negative effect that poor food choices can have on your body when you are training? “You are more likely to be tired and perform poorly during sports when you do not get enough: calories, carbohydrates, fluids, iron, vitamins, and other minerals, and protein,” reports the NIH.
While you’ll have to play around to see how your body best responds to what you eat and drink, you don’t have to start from scratch. We’ve rounded up some tips and tricks, as well as some tasty recipes, to help you find out what will work for you.
Don’t eat right before you exercise.
You could end up with indigestion or cramping. Your body needs time to turn that food into fuel. Give yourself about 30 minutes, or longer if you need it.
Don’t eat too much fiber or drink too much water.
Doing things before a workout that can bloat your belly will get in the way of your workout with muscle cramping and bathroom breaks, if you know what we mean.
Do eat for fuel.
Carbohydrates are necessary. Yes, you read that right – carbs are good for you. Go for good sources of carbohydrates that will energize you but won’t make you crash—and balance that out with sustainable and easily digestible proteins.
- Lemon Ginger Pre-Workout Breakfast Cookies are made with bananas, oats, cashews and coconut oil.
- Greek Yogurt Smoothie combines the healthy benefits of yogurt and berries.
- Deviled Eggs aren’t just for parties. Boil a few eggs, whip up the yolks with hummus and garnish with chives for an easy snack that is a complete protein.
Don’t load up on sugary snacks.
Unless you’re running a marathon or doing another endurance activity, there’s no need to.
Don’t forget to drink water.
Drinking eight ounces for every 15 minutes of exercise will improve performance.
Do go for low-glycemic
foods that are easily digestible and won’t put your blood sugar levels into overdrive. Consider too hydrating with fluids that also offer electrolytes and potassium to help with recovery.
- Energy Balls are perfectly portioned so you don’t overeat. Plus they keep in the freezer, so you can make a bunch ahead of time.
- Homemade Sports Drink can be done! This one offers lemons, salt, ginger and water to hydrate you with electrolytes and help ease post-workout muscle soreness.
- Coconut Water is known as “nature’s sports drink,” because of its low calorie count, high potassium levels and hydration. And you can make your own!
Don’t reward yourself with foods that negate your efforts.
Foods high in calories and saturated fats may taste good after a hard session, but won’t be doing you any favors.
Don’t skip a post-workout meal.
Keep your metabolism high by sticking with the three small meals and two snacks regime.
Do replenish your muscle stores with a balanced source of lean protein and nutritious carbohydrates.
- Omelet loaded with veggies can be a satisfying and hearty post-workout meal.
- Chocolate Milk Smoothie offers a protein punch that your muscles will love. Plus chocolate milk also offers carbohydrates that will replenish lost glycogen stores.
- High Protein Salad will satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters alike. It’s made with beans, bulgur and cheese. Vegan? Skip the cheese.
- Homemade Protein Bars aren’t just delicious; they’re also fun to make.
- Avocado Chicken Sandwich is a healthy but satisfying treat.