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Before and After Workout Nutrition

By Sara Butler

Do you know what you should be eating before a workout? What about after? When you’re getting sweaty and hot during a workout it’s important to fuel your body before you ever start, then give it the energy to repair after. If you want to get the full benefits of a workout, you have to understand the nutrition that goes along with it. Here’s what you need to know about nutrition before and after you get your body moving so you can reap all the benefits of your hard work.

Your Pre-Workout Meal

If you’re going to exercise vigorously (which you should be, because otherwise what’s the point?) then you need to give your body energy to perform that exercise. Your muscles already have some energy stored in them in the form of glycogen, which will be used up when you’re working out. This stored energy may be enough for some people to work off of, which is why you’ll find some people can do just fine on an empty stomach. The only thing you should do here is listen to your body and figure out what it needs in order for you to perform.

It also depends on the exercise you’re doing. If you’re going to go on a long run, not eating beforehand isn’t going to cut it – your muscles don’t have that much stored glycogen! If you’re going to go hard, then you almost certainly need fuel for your body, otherwise you’ll find yourself really struggling to get through your routine.

You should avoid high-fat foods before a workout. Instead, try a smoothie or protein shake before you get started. You’ll want to give your body enough time to digest the food too, so wait an hour after a small snack or two to three hours after a meal before working it.

Eating After a Workout

Intense exercise uses up the energy your body has stored in its muscles, so it’s important to replace that stored energy after you have exercised. It needs to repair the muscles you used during your workout and it needs carbohydrates and protein to help your muscles recover and refuel.

You’ll want to grab a snack in the hour after you’ve completed your workout. This is knowns as the “magic window” for refueling your muscles, a period of time where you will get the most benefit in recovery.

What you eat in your magic window will be a determining factor in how your next workout goes, so make good choices and always make sure you’re taking advantage of the window. You should stay away from fructose since it essentially stops the fat burn you experience post-workout. Instead, reach for slow-release, high-fiber carbohydrates. Also, introduce a lean protein with healthy fats and you’ll have the perfect post-workout meal. 

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