Written by Sadie Wirthlin
There are good, better, and best options when it comes to fueling one’s body before and after a workout. Day to day healthy foods might not be the answer; it just depends on the type of exercise being performed. Sports nutritionist Barbara Lewin, RD has the expert guidelines on this pre and post workout topic.
When it comes to cardio, Lewin says that when you eat is just as important as what you eat. Fueling up should be 60-90 minutes before the workout and should consist of something low in fat and sugar, moderate in protein, and high in carbs. An example of this would be a smoothie made with almond milk, or a fruit combination of a banana and berries. These recommendations are for cardio sessions lasting up to an hour, and if longer, additional snacking may be required during the exercise.
For cardio recovery, replenish the body with liquids and a healthy snack within 20-30 minutes. This is a time when your body is in what is called the “metabolic window” and muscles absorb nutrients most efficiently, some say. New York City nutritionist Leah Kaufman recommends a snack that has both carbohydrates and protein, like chocolate milk. This will help with muscle recovery and reduce soreness. Within an hour after working out, protein and electrolytes are highly recommended.
When it comes to lifting weights, eating a balanced meal of carbs and protein an hour or two before is important. Marie Spano, RD, sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Hawks, says that carbohydrates help prevent muscle breakdown and fatigue, while protein helps regulate growth and repair.
During a lifting session, Spano suggests drinking a lot of water, and if the session extends past an hour, go for a sports drink, in combination with water.
Protein is needed after strength training to repair the tearing and stress muscles underwent. A whey protein shake made with almond milk or a protein bar is a decent option, though for average gym-goers, a chicken dinner or another typical meal can provide enough protein.