exercise, gluten free, nutrition, weight loss

What should I eat before, during and after a workout?

“What should I eat before and after a workout?”  Although I do not specialize in sports nutrition, I do get this question a lot!  The answer depends on the athlete, the specific activity, and your fitness goals (i.e. weight loss vs muscle building), but there are some general rules that apply for pre- and post-workout nutrition.  What you eat before, during and after you exercise can make or break a workout and possibly affect your fitness results.  Feel free to contact me if you have specific questions.

Before a work out:  Carbohydrates provide fuel for your body and are very important before a workout.   The longer your body is working, the more carbs you need to keep it going.

 There has been some discussion among researchers about whether exercising on an empty stomach is beneficial for fat loss.  When you exercise on an empty stomach, your body is forced to use glycogen (stored in muscles) for energy.  When the glycogen in the muscle is used up, the body must burn fat for energy.  Therefore, working out on an empty stomach will allow for fat burning.  However, the long term effects for weight loss are not proven to be any better than working out on a fueled stomach.  Also, when you exercise on an empty stomach, you may not be able to sustain exercise as long due to lack of energy.  So, in general, it is recommended to fuel the body before exercise.

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Ideally, you should fuel your body about 1 to 3 hours pre-workout with a healthy carbohydrate. Experiment and see what time frame works best for you. If you’re a competitive athlete, this is something you need to explore during your training days and not a competition day.
It’s best not to eat immediately before a workout because your stomach will be working to digest the food you just ate while your muscles are trying to work. These competing demands can be a challenge for optimal performance.  And, eating too close to a workout may cause you to experience some GI discomfort while you train or play.
Nancy Cohen, a professor in the department of nutrition at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, recommends consuming 1 to 4 grams of carbohydrates per every 2.2 pounds of body weight if you are planning to exercise for longer than an hour.  For example, a 140 lb woman running for 1 1/2 hour would need about 65 gms of carbohydrate to fuel that amount of exercise.

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Here are some suggestions for pre-workout fuel:  Carbs are the fuel to keep you going and protein is what makes the right amino acids available for your muscles to exercise.  Before a workout, focus mainly on carbs and a little protein.

  • A medium banana (27 g carb 1.3 g pro) with T almond butter (3 g carb 3 g pro)
  • 8 oz Plain Greek yogurt(8 g carb 24 g pro) with 1 c berries(20 g carb)
  • 1 cup Oatmeal(27 g carb) and 1 cup berries(20 g carb) add collagen to boost protein and joint care.
  • A med Apple(25 g carb) and T almond butter(3 g carb 3 g pro)
  • 1/2 cup nuts and raisins equal mix(35 g carb, 8 g pro)
  • Smoothie (unsweetened almond milk, fruit, Perfect Protein powder)
  • Chia pudding(unsweetened almond milk, fruit, nuts)
  • My favorite green drink add collagen to boost protein 
  • here are some pre-workout snacks by Dr. Axe

Fluids are also vital before exercising.   Researchers recommend you consume 5 to 10 milliliters of water per 2.2 pounds of body weight within two to four hours before a workout.  For example, the 140 lb woman above would need 320-630 ml (1 cup = 240 ml) of water within two to four hours of her run.

During your work out:  One of the most important things to do during exercise is to hydrate with water.  If your workout is 45 minutes or less, water is likely all you need.  However, for endurance exercises of one to 2½ hours, aim for 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour in addition to hydration. This will provide enough carbohydrates to fuel the exercise.  Keep in mind, liquids are more easily digested, and may be best for those that want to avoid digestive discomfort.

Sports drinks are popular for athletes because they provide hydration and carbohydrates in one.   I am not a fan of these popular sports drinks.  They are made up of chemically treated & refined sugar, artificial colors, and other ingredients that are not good for your body.  One of the worst ingredients in these popular drinks is Bromolated Vegetable Oil (I believe this is being phased out) which is added to keep the drink from getting cloudy and the artificial flavor suspended in the drink. This controversial substance is linked to serious health consequences and is banned in Europe and Japan!

Below are a few examples of food to eat during endurance exercise.  These foods will provide carbohydrate and some will also supply fluids.

After your workout:  Getting protein and carbs into your system is vital post workout.  It is a good idea to remember the 3 Rs after a work out:  Refuel(carbohydrate), Rehydrate(water), and Repair(protein).  Your body uses stored energy (glycogen) in your muscles to power through your workout or game, so after that workout, you need to replenish the nutrients lost.

As soon as possible post workout, get carbs and protein into your body. The carbohydrate will give your muscles the ability to replenish the glycogen they just lost and the protein helps your muscles rebuild and repair.  It is best to eat within 15-30 minutes of completing an intense workout.

Nancy Cohen suggests consuming 1 to 1.2 grams of carbohydrate per 2.2 lbs body weight per hour for four to six hours and 15 to 25 grams of protein within the first hour after long or very high-intensity workouts.   So, the 140 lbs woman above would need about 60 gms carbohydrate and 15-25 gms protein in the first hour after a very long or HIIT work out for refuel and repair.
After a lighter workout, a well-balanced meal that includes high-quality protein and carbohydrates within two to three hours after finishing and drinking enough fluids to replace losses is adequate.
Some studies suggest that certain fruit juices, such as watermelon juice and cherry juice, can reduce muscle soreness after exercise.  There are also studies suggesting tart cherry juice can reduce joint pain.  I have a list of products below that can also help with these issues.

Post-workout meals include:  A post-workout smoothie is a great option.  It will provide carbs, protein and fluid helping to re-hydrate the body.  If you make a smoothie before the gym and put it in an insulated stainless steel cup, it will still be cold and fresh when you are done with your work out.

  • Post-workout recovery smoothie (smoothie made with unsweetened almond milk and fruit, see recipes link).  A scoop of Perfect Protein powder will provide about 5 gms carb and 16 gms protein and is highly bio-available for quick muscle repair. (gluten free)
  • Turkey on a whole-grain wrap with veggies
  • 8 oz Plain Greek yogurt(8 g carb 24 g pro) with 1 c berries(20 g carb)
  • Epic bars
  • boiled egg (6 gms protein), 1 cup mixed berries (20 g carb)
  • An Ultra Protein bar will provide about 20 gms of carb and protein (gluten free)

Here are my must have products for athletes:

Before a workout and during a workout:  Endura Optimizer® | Metagenics is used during intense, prolonged training or racing. For best results, alternate Endura Optimizer with Endura® rehydration formula to avoid dehydration and to optimize energy levels.  Also, use it For Recovery (to reduce muscle catabolism after prolonged intense exercise and speed recovery).

Recovery: To help muscles recover from a work out, try this whey protein Perfect Protein powder .     If you need a protein and carb recovery formula that is milk and soy free, try Ultra Meal Rice protein.
To keep joints healthy and in working order, use my favorite collagen daily.  See my          favorite way to use it here.
For healthy weight gain, try ProGain
Hydration:  Endura® rehydration formula to avoid dehydration and to optimize energy levels.  Joint care: ChondroCare® Advanced Joint Support and Protection*
Body composition: Ultra CLA
Weight Loss: Healthy TransformationsClick Here for some great smoothie recipes!  You can use any of the Metagenics protein powders in these recipes.

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