You’ve got your fitness routine down to a science, but what about your nutrition? The food you eat (or don’t eat) before hitting the gym can help, or hinder, your workout performance. Just like a car, your body needs fuel in order to work at full capacity. What you eat, and when, will depend on the type of activity you are doing. Here are the best things to eat when fueling up for each of these workouts.
If your swim is going to last longer than 45 minutes, and you haven’t eaten in the past three to four hours, you should make sure to eat at least 30 grams of easily digestible carbohydrate. Try a medium sized banana, six ounces of fruit-flavored Greek yogurt, half a bagel and a slice of cheese, or half of a sweet potato with a small pat of butter.
Running or Biking
For endurance exercise such as running or biking (spin classes count) that is longer than 45 minutes, it’s important to eat carbohydrates within an hour or two pre-workout. A few ideas: one slice of toast with peanut butter and a drizzle of honey, a cup of low-fiber cereal with half a cup of milk, or a smoothie made with a handful of leafy greens like spinach, one cup of fruit, a handful of almonds, and milk or water. If your run or bike ride is over an hour and a half, you’ll need to refuel with carbohydrates during your workout. This could be in a liquid form, like with a sports drink, an energy gel or even something simple like a banana.
A longer, lower-intensity workout will utilize more fat stores than stored carbohydrate, so you don’t really need to worry about eating carbs right after class. You’ll still want to refuel, but your snack can be something small, like a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts. And if your next meal is within a few hours, there’s no need to eat anything unless you are feeling hungry.
Strength training relies less on glycogen stores, so it’s not as important to eat right before you lift weights. You should be ok fuel-wise as long as you’ve had a meal within the past three to four hours. The key is to consume a mix of protein and carbohydrate within one to two hours post-workout to help repair your muscles and prime them to regenerate faster. Try a six ounce plain Greek yogurt with a handful of walnuts and a cup of berries, half a bagel with 2 scrambled eggs and a slice of cheese, or, if it’s time for a meal, five ounces of broiled salmon with three fourths cup of cooked farro and one to two cups of steamed broccoli tossed with a tablespoon of olive oil.
High Intensity Interval Training
A high-energy HIIT type of class will deplete your muscles glycogen stores, so make sure to eat a little extra carbohydrate pre-workout to fuel your body. Try pretzels with hummus, a banana with peanut butter, half a sweet potato topped with Greek yogurt “sour cream” or a few crackers with a string cheese stick. Eat an hour or two ahead of time to ensure you have plenty of energy to use during your workout.
No matter what type of exercise you are doing, it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink at least ten to 16 ounces of water an hour before you exercise and keep sipping during your workout. Replenish with another ten to 16 ounces after your finish. If you’re working out in hot and humid conditions, or sweated excessively, choose a salty snack or sports drink to help replace electrolytes.
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