Once you make the decision to start working out regularly, you will see that there are certain steps you will have to take if you want to see any tangible results. Regardless of whether your goal is to lose weight, be in better shape, or work on your muscles, you should come up with a routine that will work for you, decide if you will be working out at home or in a gym, get the right clothes and so on.
Another thing you cannot overlook is proper nutrition. This means that you need to find the best foods that will let you reach your goal. If you have any special requirements, you might need to consult with a nutritionist but if you have no dietary restrictions, there are some great pre- and post-workout foods you can incorporate into your everyday routine. Take a look below for some inspiration.
Pre-workout foods and how to make the most of them
First of all, you should be aware of the fact that not eating before a workout can lead to nausea, dizziness, and lightheadedness among other issues, all of which can result in an injury. Plus, this can have a negative impact on your performance as well as reduce your gains.
It’s not uncommon to not feel hungry before your workout, depending on when you work out. Maybe you simply don’t like eating breakfast but you prefer working out in the morning. If you go to the gym directly from the office, you might not get a chance to get a snack. While it’s not the end of the world if you don’t eat before your workout, it would be ideal to fuel your body before you put it through some intense exercises.
What to do before a workout
There are several things to keep in mind when it comes to snacking before a workout. For one, eating anywhere between 30 minutes and three hours prior to the workout is ideal, depending on what you eat. This will give you enough time to digest your meal but not use up all the calories.
When choosing a snack, you want something that has protein and carbs. Protein will help you with recovery while carbs will give you the energy to do the exercises. Finally, you cannot forget to stay hydrated so drink enough water both before and during the workout.
1. Avocado toast and a hard-boiled egg
In case you have a hearty appetite, you can give avocado on toast a go. Add a hard-boiled egg as well, for some protein. There are plenty of ways how you can do this so you can always try a new approach if you get bored of doing it the same way every time. What is also great is that this is not a difficult meal to make; no special skills necessary for this classic dish.
2. Toast with peanut butter, chia seeds, and banana
This is another super easy snack for when on the go. Get some whole-wheat toast, spread some peanut butter on the slices, chop up a banana, and sprinkle some chia seeds for a bit of crunch.
3. Parfaits with various types of fruit
While parfaits might sound too fancy, don’t worry – it only takes a couple of minutes to make one. For example, you can throw together some Greek yogurt, various berries, and granola and you have a parfait in no time.
Another option you can consider is a bit of granola, some cottage cheese that will add fat and a creamy texture, and a few fresh strawberries on top. The best part of parfaits is that there are a million recipes and you can easily tweak them a bit to suit your taste.
4. Waffles with fruit and Greek yogurt
If you have some time before your workout, you can make waffles. Put 2 eggs, 2 cups of oats, one banana, a bit of cinnamon and salt, ¼ cup of almond milk, ½ cup of Greek yogurt, 1tbsp of baking powder and 1tsp of vanilla extract into the blender and make the batter. Once you’ve made the waffles, you can top them off with strawberries, sliced bananas, peanut butter, chia seeds, Greek yogurt, maple syrup, and anything else you like.
This is a great meal as it contains fiber, probiotics, and vitamins, in addition to tasting super yummy. Plus, if you happen to make too much, you can freeze the waffles and eat them again in a couple of days.
5. Carrots and cauliflower hummus
A classic snack that you should consider as well is hummus and carrots. You can easily get hummus and baby carrots at a local store but if you have some more time on your hands, you can try making a dip on your own with a cauliflower base and use the carrots from your garden if you have one. This quick meal is packed with protein so definitely consider making it a part of your pre-workout diet.
6. Various protein smoothies
Sometimes, we really don’t have the time for a full meal before we head out to do our exercises. When that happens, it’s good to know that there is a quick alternative. Making a smoothie is not at all difficult and you don’t need too many ingredients. For example, you can blend blueberries, banana, yogurt, milk, and ice and make a smoothie in a blink of an eye. Use partial- or full-fat yogurt for more fuel. You can also make a whole orange smoothie.
If you prefer coffee in the morning, why not combine it with your smoothie? Mocha smoothies are all the rage and will add that touch of caffeine you might be craving. Finally, you can find a quality pre workout blend that will maximize your performance and make you feel more alert.
7. Homemade energy bars
If you can’t find exactly what you need in a store, you can make your own energy bars in no time. They need no baking and can last for two weeks in the fridge and up to two months in the freezer. For example, you can try buckwheat peanut butter bars or apricot and almond energy bars. They are healthy and full of protein.
8. Veggie and cheese omelettes
Maybe you really love omelettes, in which case you’ll be happy to hear that they are also a great pre-workout meal. For instance, load them up with your favourite veggies and feel free to splurge on the full-fat cheese alongwith a tablespoon of olive oil every day.
Post-workout foods and how to make the most of them
Seeing as how you’ve used up all the fuel from your pre-workout meal, you now need to refuel. Eating after a workout is essential because you have to replenish all the calories, electrolytes, and glycogen that you’ve depleted. Then, the intake of proteins will help your muscles recover quickly. Finally, not eating once you’re done exercising can lead to you feeling fatigued and having low blood sugar. Additionally, you are negatively affecting your body’s repair process, meaning you won’t be able to reach your goals.
What to do after a workout
The first thing you should do is rehydrate as soon as possible. You’ve lost plenty of fluids and you need to replenish them right away. While some people recommend energy drinks, it’s best to stick with water seeing as how it does not contain as much sugar. T
hen, you are probably not able to eat a full meal right after your workout but make sure to have a snack nearby that will give you some energy. Finally, when you do get to your proper post-workout meal, make sure that it has plenty of carbs and protein.
1. Protein-filled shakes
Just like you can have a shake or smoothie before a workout, you can have one after you’re done exercising. Seeing as how they can be a great source of protein and are easy to make, adding them to your routine should be a no-brainer.
For example, blend some almond milk with half a banana, some hemp seeds, and a scoop of protein powder and you’ll have a quick meal in case you can’t make a proper lunch or dinner yet. You can also make a green smoothie with spinach, apples, and bananas or one with oranges, bananas, and vanilla – the choices are truly numerous.
2. Chocolate milk
Another quick snack you can turn to is chocolate milk. While store-bought milk might sound appealing as all you have to do is buy it, it can also be full of sugar. Instead, why not make some chocolate milk on your own? It won’t take too much time and you can rest assured that it’s a much healthier alternative. One cup after your workout will do wonders.
3. Granola bars
We already mentioned various types of homemade energy bars. Well, great news – you can also consume them after your workout. So, it doesn’t matter if you make them on your own or turn to an established brand that makes protein or granola bars, this is a great way to refuel your body and replace the energy you lost and get the necessary protein to rebuild your muscles.
If you prefer pancakes over waffles, there is something for you as well. Adding some protein powder in the batter is a great way to get the protein you need, especially if you don’t like drinking shakes and smoothies. You can add some peanut butter and jelly on top to make this treat even sweeter.
5. Pasta with chicken
Leftovers from last night’s dinner can also be a great post-workout meal. So, you can intentionally make more food so that you get to eat it for two days. Make pasta with chicken, butternut squash, tart cherries, and caramelized onions, for example. It will provide you with protein and complex carbs, which is exactly what you need.
6. Smoked salmon
Of course, we cannot forget about fish and especially those that provide us with omega-3 fatty acids as these can improve muscle protein synthesis and help reduce exercise-induced damage that can lead to inflammation.
For instance, a couple of slices of smoked salmon, some cream cheese, and a bit of beets and arugula in a whole grain wrap will give you a nice boost. Or, you can go for grilled salmon with a baked sweet potato.
7. Tuna and quinoa
Tuna is another type of fish you can enjoy. You can mix it with avocado, feta, baby spinach, some cherry tomatoes, and quinoa – and, voila, a tasty and healthy salad. On the other hand, if you happen to be vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free and are looking for a way to increase your intake of fiber and protein, just swap the ingredients that you don’t eat with something else that you love. Quinoa can be enjoyed as a part of the main course or as a side dish, so look up some interesting recipes.
8. Bean burrito
Another great meal for vegans and vegetarians is a burrito with beans, rice, salsa, guacamole, and anything else you want to add. Consider non-dairy sour cream, black olives, and plenty of spices and herbs. Maybe you’re not vegetarian and would like some meat as well.
Worry not, you can easily use chicken, beef etc. if that suits you more. Like most recipes, you can switch out plenty of the ingredients, as long as you ensure you are getting enough protein and carbs.
9. Whole food meals
While this sounds a bit vague, it simply means that your options are endless and you probably already have a recipe in mind that you can use. For instance, hard-boiled eggs and fruit, grilled chicken, oatmeal with egg whites cooked in, and salmon with broccoli are just some of the dishes you can turn to and probably already know how to make.
As you can see, the choices when it comes to your pre- and post-workout meals abound. In addition to looking up some new recipes and adjusting some that you already know, you should look into the best practices when it comes to when and how you should eat in order to reach your fitness goals. Whatever you choose to incorporate into your diet, don’t forget to stay hydrated!
Jasmine Anderson is a lifestyle and beauty blogger based in Australia. She is an incurable daydreamer, who finds inspiration in little, everyday moments. Spending time at her cozy home office with her two cats, writing her blog, is her favorite thing in the world.