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Best Foods to Eat Before & After a Workout



Whether you're an avid exerciser, or just dabble in it once in a while, do you ever wonder, what are the best foods to eat before heading out for a run? Or, what about after a session of Bikram? Not only that, but how long before a workout should you eat, and what about late night workouts - should you eat after?

We talked to Junelle Lupiani, RD, Mirval Arizona's nutritionist, who answered all our questions surrounding eating and working out.

What are the best foods to eat before exercising for optimal performance?
  • Carbohydrates before exercise will keep you from feeling hungry during the workout and will maintain blood sugar, which is important for peak performance.
  • If exercise lasts for longer than one hour, choose carbohydrate sources with a low glycemic effect. These include things like apples, bananas, beans, and yogurt.
  • If exercising for less than one hour, choose carbs with a higher glycemic effect like crackers, breads, or pasta, but be sure to avoid sugary foods since these may cause a drop in blood sugar which will leave you fatigued during exercise and may cause GI distress.
What foods should we stay away from before a workout?
  • Don't eat large amounts of protein and high fat foods. Things like eggs and bacon or a cheeseburger and fries before exercise can cause GI problems which will certainly affect performance.
How should we plan pre-workout meals?
  • Intensity of exercise has a lot to do with how your body tolerates your fuel choices, Lupiani says. For example, a high intensity swim may call for three hour digestion time beforehand, while eating a high glycemic bagel before a low intensity long distance run might be vital for top performance.
What foods are best to eat after a workout?
  • Fluid replacement is paramount after a workout. Water balance and offsetting the fluid loss during exercise can be achieved during exercise by drinking 8 ounces every 15-20 minutes. Hydrating afterwards is equally as important and adding nutrients to fluids is the best choice. This can be done by consuming fruit juice (high in carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals/electrolytes). Sports drinks work too as do fruits, like grapes and apples.
  • It is best to feed muscles some carbohydrate fuel mixed with a little protein about 15 minutes after a workout and Lupiani usually recommends her athletes consume about a 300 calorie snack. This might be an almond butter and jelly sandwich, a yogurt with a half cup of granola, or cereal with banana and milk.
What about late-night workouts - if you can't fit in dinner before a class or workout session, but don't get home until after 9pm, should you refrain from eating altogether, or does your body need it?
  • A calorie is a calorie, no matter what time of day you consume it so if you exercise late at night and you want to recover properly or you're simply hungry - eat.
And, if you're trying to lose weight, Lupiani reminds that calories burned should exceed calories taken in, so don't consume as many calories before and after your workout as you burned during your workout.

Back to the Fitness Guide