Pre and Post-Workout Snack Ideas
By: Sarah Frazier, B.S., Nutrition Expert
March is National Nutrition Month, and to celebrate, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is inviting everyone to put their best fork forward with their nutrition and wellness goals. Whether you are new to exercise, or a seasoned athlete, the way you fuel your body can make all the difference in both the quality of your workout and your results.
We all know that food is extremely important aspect of a healthy lifestyle; it is our body’s source of fuel after all! But what we may not know is the best way to fuel our bodies before and after a workout. What should I eat? When should I eat it? What should I avoid? We answer these questions, and more, below.
It’s important to note that every person is different, and reacts to food differently in relation to the exercise they do. It may take some trial and error to figure out the perfect combination of foods that give you the right amount of energy without bothering your stomach! Here are some general guidelines to follow:
It’s best to eat about 1-2 hours prior to working out in order to ensure proper digestion and decrease cramping. Your snack should consist of mostly carbohydrates with some protein, but be low in fat and fiber. Carbohydrates will replenish your glycogen stores, which is your muscles’ predominate source of energy during strenuous activity. But fat and fiber slow digestion, which could bother your stomach during your workout and cause cramping. The amount of food you should eat is very much based on tolerance, but should range between 200-500 calories.
Some examples of a good pre-workout snack include:
- Cereal, low-fat milk, and a banana
- Yogurt, 2 graham crackers, and an apple
- ½ turkey sandwich with a pear
- ¼ cup trail mix with a glass of 100% fruit juice
- an apple with peanut butter and a glass of low-fat milk
Post-workout fuel is all about recovery! Your workout was TOUGH and now you need to give your body the energy and nutrients it needs to make you stronger. Here are a couple of guidelines for post-workout eating.
During your workouts, your muscles have used their predominate source of energy, which is glycogen. To replenish these stores, you need carbohydrates! Also, as you use your muscles to lift weights or run, they are broken down, to be re-built during recovery. To aid in this re-building process, your body needs protein. In the two hours following exercise, the enzymes needed to create glycogen are most active, so it is necessary to do your post-workout fueling within 2 hours. A good mix of carbohydrates and protein is necessary to replenish glycogen and repair and build muscle.
Here are some good examples of a post-workout snack:
- 3 ounces of tuna with 6-10 crackers and a small glass of 100% juice
- Protein powder with 8 ounces of low-fat or almond milk, a banana, and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
- 1 cup of rice, ½ cup black beans, and a glass of low-fat milk
- A fruit and yogurt smoothie
- Oatmeal with milk and fruit
In addition to a well thought out pre- and post-workout snack, it is so important to make sure you are hydrating! Make sure to thoroughly hydrate throughout the day to insure proper hydration and electrolyte balance during your workouts. Drink 17-20 ounces of water 2-3 hours before working out, and drink lots of water after you finish! Sports drinks aid in hydration but are really only necessary if you are exercising at a very high intensity for over an hour.
Need more help finding a balance between nutrition and exercise? Our on-site nutritionists and fitness professionals are here to guide you. Contact your local club to get started: