After a long workout, you tend to treat yourself to a nicely prepared meal. Even if you’re still choosing healthy foods, thinking of what you’ll eat is a great way to motivate yourself to power through that extra rep at the gym. That meal is a reward, but if you’re working so hard for dinner, are you making sure you are putting good food in your body before your workout? What are you eating to prep your muscles for an hour of intense physical activity? It’s important to fuel your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs so your body doesn’t take energy from the very part you’re trying to strengthen: your muscles. That’s right, when your body doesn’t get all the energy it needs from healthy foods, then it starts to feed off your muscles for that energy. Although it may at first seem counterintuitive, eating a healthy snack or meal is crucial to a successful workout. The key is to eat nutrient-dense foods, so you can get all of the nutrition you need without overeating.
Eating carbs before a workout
Eating carbs before a workout is important because your body needs the fiber and glucose for energy. Glucose is a type of sugar that is found naturally in all types of food with carbohydrates. Some healthy foods with carbs are whole wheat bread, oatmeal and quinoa. Try eating a piece of toast or a quinoa bar about half an hour before your workout, and see if you notice yourself more energized when you would usually get tired during a workout. Carbohydrates are also found in fruits and vegetables.
Eating protein before a workout
It may seem obvious, but your body also needs protein to keep your muscles strong throughout an exercise routine. Protein also helps your muscles repair themselves. When your muscles are sore and tired from, say, lifting weights, your body needs extra protein to bring them back to feeling normal. Eating protein before you lift weights ensures that your muscles won’t give out on you halfway through. A lean piece of fish or a spoonful of peanut butter is a great way to eat a healthy dose of protein without feeling bloated. Spinach is also a very protein-dense food.
Eating healthy fat before a workout
Fat is essential to a healthy body. While we don’t suggest you dive into that cheeseburger pre-workout, you should consume a small amount of healthy fat before you go to the gym. Fat burns more slowly than other nutrients, so it’s one of the best ways to keep you going in your exercises. Look for unsaturated fats in nuts, olive oil, and (everyone’s favorite) avocados.
You can always make a combination of these foods, too. A piece of toast with peanut butter and a banana, for example, is a great way to get a source of carbs, protein and fat without overeating before your afternoon workout. The options are endless; just remember these three essential nutrients, and try to eat no sooner than half an hour before you slip on your workout clothes.