The Best Foods to Eat Before & After Movement
Moving has incredible benefits for your body and mind. Did you know that what you eat and when you eat it can make a big difference on the results you see? Do you know what foods are best before a workout? Do you know what to eat after a workout? The proper foods can help your body perform better and recover faster. Let's break it down.
What's the most important thing before, during, and after movement? Staying hydrated! Drinking enough water is extremely important. It helps to keep your energy levels up, helps you recover, and helps your body function optimally. Be sure you're drinking plenty of water throughout the day. If you're in our program, you have a custom water target to hit based on your background information and other factors. If not, a good rule of thumb is to drink at least half your weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim to drink at least 75 ounces of water.
The best foods to eat before a movement session depend on what you are planning to do and how much time you have before you're going to do it. Your body uses different energy systems based on what you're doing and how long you're doing it. Glycogen is a fuel source stored in the muscles and is the main source of energy for short, high-intensity movements. Longer activities are fueled by several nutrient energy fuels (mainly glucose and fatty acids).
Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats all have a place at the pre-workout table. Eating foods rich in carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, & vegetables) can help preserve your stores of glycogen and provide added fuel to sustain your workout. Healthy fats help to fuel longer, less intense movement sessions and lean proteins help to improve muscle recovery, increase strength, and can even increase performance. These food groups should be consumed together as a pre-workout meal.
The longer you have before a workout, the more complete your meal should be. If you have 2-3 hours before you're planning to workout, eat a meal that contains a form of carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. If you have 1-2 hours before your workout, eat a smaller meal that contains carbohydrates and lean protein. If you have less than one hour, choose foods that are easy to digest and contain carbohydrates and a little protein.
Eating after movement is just as important as eating before. You want to maximize all of the hard work you just put in by choosing the right foods. After a workout, your body needs to refuel its glycogen stores and rebuild muscle proteins. Eating proper nutrients within 30-60 minutes of your workout has been shown to improve recovery, increase muscle growth, and decrease the breakdown of muscle proteins. Your body's ability to restore glycogen is enhanced following movement, and many experts recommend eating as soon as possible.
Carbohydrates and lean proteins are key for your post-workout nutrition (with healthy fats being part of the supporting cast). Carbohydrate filled foods help the body to recover and replenish the muscle's stores of glycogen, while lean proteins help build new muscle tissue and repair muscle proteins. Including healthy fats to form a whole meal is a good idea and can even assist with the building and rebuilding of muscle proteins and tissues.
Click on the "before" and "after" tabs to see a list of some of our favorite foods to eat both pre- and post-workout. Adapt these to incorporate some of your favorite foods. Note: You should choose one meal to have before your workout. This list does not mean to have multiple meals at different times, but is showing options based on the amount of time you have before you workout.