One of the most frequently asked questions I get from my clients is "Should I eat before or after I work out?" The short answer to this is BOTH!
Eating a small snack or meal before you exercise will help you power through your workout and eating right afterwards will help your body refuel.
Some important things to remember...
1. Eat between 30 min -1 1/2 hours before you workout.
You want to eat close enough to your workout so that you do not feel hungry while exercising but you don't want to eat so close to training that your stomach feels like it has a brick is in it. Everyone's stomach is different, so experiment with different times, until you find what works best for you.
You might also find that you wait a different amount of time before working out for your various types of training. I find that for strength training, the perfect time is one hour. If I wait any longer I start to get really hungry and do not workout as intensely! However, if I don't wait that long, I feel weighed down by my meal. When I run after breakfast or in the afternoon, I like to wait about an hour and a half.
2. Eat a snack or meal that has a balance between carbs and protein. Do not eat food with fat in it before working out!
This is important because fat takes longer to digest and will keep the oxygen in your stomach for digestion instead of allowing it to go to the muscles that need it during exercise; and because it slows down digestion your stomach will feel full and uncomfortable. Choose foods with complex carbs and some protein such as oatmeal, Greek yogurt and banana, or whole grain cereal and skim milk.
3. Keep in mind, the time of day that you workout may change your usual eating habits.
When I run right after I wake up, I skip the meal I usually have. I just drink a little juice and hit the road. I don't want to wake up at 4am to eat a small meal! However, I understand that the trade off to not eating a snack will be that those runs are never my longest because I don't have enough circulating blood sugar and I start to feel really hungry and tired after about 30 minutes. It's a trade off I'm willing to make in the morning because I really like those runs!
4. After you workout, you have a 30 minute window, in which you must eat to replenish your carb and protein stores!
This is probably the most important piece of information concerning eating and exercise! It is crucial for you to eat within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. Your body can process carbs and protein the best during this time frame. This meal will build up the energy stores you must have for your next workout and will give your muscles the protein they need for optimum growth. If you wait any longer, you will not be able to maximize the benefits of your exercise.
Make sure you refuel with some complex carbs and protein. My favorite post exercise meal is an egg white fritatta with veggies. You might also like to try lean chicken breast on a whole wheat wrap with tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers. If you don't feel like you can stomach a lot of solid food right after you eat, whip up a shake of non fat plain yogurt, fresh blueberries, strawberries and some ice.
Eating the right foods at the proper times will fuel your workouts and allow you to maximize your weight loss and muscle gains
What are the best time frames for your snacking and training? Do you have a favorite before or after exercise meal? I'd love to hear about them...