The Best Things To Eat Before and After Exercising

When you’re getting ready to exercise, you don’t want to do it on an empty stomach. On the other hand, you also don’t want to load up on food and then immediately hit the gym. Make it a goal to eat a snack or small meal around 1 to 3 hours prior to your workout. If you munch on something right before exercising, it can cause stomach problems. Why? As you’re working out, more blood gets allocated to your muscles at the expense of your digestive system. Once you are finished, drink and eat as soon as possible. At this stage your body is in need of protein and nutrients, especially as it rebuilds muscle tissue. Here is a list of what to eat before and after a workout.


Before: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

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Carbs have gotten a bad rap, but they are essential when working out because they provide you with the energy boost you need. This childhood favorite does the trick thanks to the bread and jelly. On top of that, the peanut butter gives you a nice dose of protein, which keeps you feeling full. This will curb cravings and the temptation to binge on food. Studies show that eating peanuts in moderation can assist in weight control. Going on a leisurely walk or doing some light yoga? Try half a sandwich and save the rest for your next workout.



Before: Oatmeal with skim milk and fruit

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Do you exercise as part of your morning routine? Fuel up beforehand with a bowl of oatmeal. Opt for natural oat groats without added sugars rather than the instant stuff. Pair it up with a piece of fruit for slower digestion, which in turn keeps your blood sugar levels in check. Add a splash of skim milk for some additional protein and calcium.



Before: Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie

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Looking for something that goes down easy during your exercise and keeps you feeling energetic? Smoothies are the perfect solution. However, avoid the ones you buy in the store as they often contain high amounts of added sugar. Instead, make one yourself by blending yogurt with fruit. You’ll need to stay hydrated during the workout, so add some water or ice to your concoction.



Before: Trail Mix

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You might think trail mix is reserved for a hike up the mountain, but it makes for the perfect workout snack as well. The raisins provide an immediate energy boost, while the nuts provide protein and the good kind of fats. The combo is also rich in antioxidants, which helps your body utilize oxygen at optimal levels as you run or pump iron.



Before: Low-fat latte and an apple

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We’ve got some good news if you’re a fan of java. Feel free to enjoy a small latte before your morning or afternoon workout. Aside from the protein that you get from the milk, it has been found that caffeine alleviates muscle pain. Just keep in mind that as a stimulant, caffeine can disrupt your sleep, so it is best to avoid it once the late afternoon arrives. If lattes aren’t your thing, you can substitute a glass of skim milk or low-fat string cheese.


Before: Banana

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Strapped for time before your exercise routine? Have a banana. No preparation is needed, and you can just stick one in your gym bag. Bananas contain carbs that digest easily and therefore keep you from feeling sluggish. Along with beneficial antioxidants, they contain potassium, which may help fend off muscle cramping.



After: Egg and whole-grain toast

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Choose whole-grain bread rather than white since the former is packed with fiber while the later is just empty calories. Serve it with a hard-boiled or scrambled egg (avoid the temptation to add salt since the sodium absorbs water and leaves you prone to cramping), which contains all nine of the essential amino acids needed for building muscle.



After: Low-fat Chocolate milk

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Chocolate milk isn’t just for kids; when you’re looking for a drink with the perfect carbs to protein ratio (4:1), this is a great option. It both refuels your body and helps with muscle recovery. In fact, one study found that athletes who drank a glass of chocolate milk rather than carb-only sports drinks like Gatorade recovered faster. In addition, chocolate milk replenishes the fluids lost during your workout.



After: Whole-grain turkey wrap

The Best Things To Eat Before and After Exercising

Once you’ve finished exercising, enjoy this healthy and easy-to-make snack. The whole grains give you the right amount of fiber and carbs, whereas the 3 ounces of turkey is packed with 19 grams of protein. Ditch the mayo and go with slices of avocado instead. They provide heart-healthy unsaturated fats, potassium, magnesium and lots of vitamins.



After: Greek yogurt and fruit

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Not only is Greek yogurt delicious, it provides 20 grams of protein per serving. For some extra nutrition, top it off with some strawberries, raspberries or blueberries. The antioxidants will help with the muscle soreness following your workout.


After: Salmon with sweet potato

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There is perhaps no healthier fish out there than salmon. It is rich in both protein and heart-protecting omega-3 fatty acids. To keep you feeling full and satisfied, prepare a side of sweet potato with its 23 grams of carbs and nearly 4 grams of fiber. Sweet potato also boosts your immune system with a daily supply of vitamin A. Roast it, bake it, or mash it, but resist the temptation to add butter. Instead, top it off with a spoonful of extra-virgin olive oil.



After: chicken, brown rice, and vegetables

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Why do fit people often incorporate skinless chicken breast into their diet? A mere 4 oz serving contains a whopping 35 programs of protein and yet only 185 calories! Your immune system benefits from the vitamin B-6 as well. Add a generous portion of vegetables and a cup of brown rice for a perfectly balanced meal.



Before, during and after: stay hydrated

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Make sure to drink plenty of water. Follow these guidelines:

  • Before exercise: Around 16 to 24 ounces

  • During exercise: 8 to 16 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes

  • After exercise: 16 to 24 ounces for every pound you lose during your workout (step on a scale before and after)


After: Water or sports drink?

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If your workout lasts an hour or less, stick to water. But if you exercise for longer periods of time, it is important to replace electrolytes, including magnesium, potassium and sodium, which are lost as you are sweating. In those cases, coconut water or Gatorade is a better option.



Foods to avoid

Foods that are greasy and high in saturated fats take longer for your body to digest, which can result in stomach aches. Also keep in mind that some people don’t respond well to a combination of high fiber and protein during a workout. All bodies are built differently, so pay attention to what works and doesn’t work for you. If you’re running a 10K race, take the safest route and stick with the recommended meals and snacks.

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