I recently shared over on Instagram that I had taken a little hiatus from my normal exercise routine over the past few months and became rather inconsistent with working out. I used the excuse of Hemsley’s nap schedule preventing me from going to my beloved classes and the winter weather keeping me cooped up inside more often than I’d like (I know, not the best reasons, but I’ve given myself some grace here).
I’m happy to say that I’m finally getting back in the groove and my little hiatus reminded me that I NEED physical activity. Not only for my strength and stamina but even more importantly, for my mental health and joy.
I truly feel so much better when I’m regularly moving my body and getting a good sweat on. Motivation, inspiration, creativity, self-confidence, and general feel-goodness all increase when I workout consistently. Not only does this make me a better person, but a better mama and a better wife. So really, I just cannot afford to not exercise!
This brings me to today’s post, which is actually a revamp of a post I wrote years ago on pre and post workout nutrition. According to the lovely google analytics, this post of mine still gets tons of referral traffic and I figured it was time for a fresh update! As I get myself back into the routine of regular exercise I’m also thinking a lot more about the nutrition I get around my workouts.
While exercise alone does make me feel amazing, combining exercise with the right nutrition leads to better results both physically and mentally. Fuelling our bodies pre-workout makes sure we aren’t running on an empty tank, and replenishing post-workout ensures our body gets the right nutrients necessary to build and repair muscle, boost recovery, and restore energy.
I’ve created a great little FREE e-book guide that simplifies pre and post workout nutrition for you to download at the end of the post. But first, here’s the breakdown of what you’ll want to focus on consuming before your workouts and after.
pre workout nutrition:
Before you workout, you need to fuel your body, energize it, and invigorate it for the work it is about to do for you!
The KEY macronutrient for pre-workout is Carbohydrates!
Carbohydrates are the body’s most efficient source of usable energy. When consumed these carbohydrates break down into sugars that can be used immediately for energy or stored as glycogen for energy during exercise later on. Ensuring you consume an adequate amount of carbohydrates pre-workout helps prevent the body from breaking down protein in the body as a source of energy.
Next up to carbohydrates, another important pre-workout macronutrient is protein. Small amount of faster digesting protein sources (lower fat greek yogurt or cottage cheese, eggs, or protein powder) help to fuel your muscles for exercise.
Because different types of exercise require different types of pre-workout fuel, I like to break down the nutrition options into two simple categories: “need-it-quick” and “have-some-time”.
“Need It Quick”: You have a short amount of time to exercise or you are performing a fast high-intensity workout of shorter duration.
In these scenarios you need to eat something within the 30-minutes before you start your workout. You may have just finished an appointment at work and only have a short time period to get your workout in, or it might be first thing in the morning and you want to eat something but want to avoid cramps or a full stomach. You might also have a quick, high intensity workout planned and need fast energy.
The best options here are quick-digesting, simple carbohydrates such as fruit or other healthy, unrefined, simple sugars like dates. If the “need it quick” scenario applies to you try the options below:
- Smoothie made w/ Protein Powder & Fruit (grass-fed whey, brown rice, hemp, soy, or collagen protein powders): try my Silky Gingersnap Smoothie, Tasty Tangerine Smoothie, or Mocha Nut Smoothie Bowl!
- Unsweetened 1% Greek Yogurt + Berries + Hemp Seeds + Drizzle of Honey
- 1% Cottage Cheese + Apple + Cinnamon
- Homemade Energy Bar: try my Pumpkin Pie Bars, PB & J Bars, or Apricot Cashew Bars!
“Have Some Time”: You have the chance to eat more than 1-hour prior to your workout or you plan to do a longer duration lower intensity workout such as a run, other cardio, or heavier strength training.
The key is still to consume carbohydrates but to focus on slower-digesting carbohydrates that provide longer-lasting energy. Complex carbohydrates including rice, beans, quinoa, sweet potato, or oats are all great options. The protein you consume in this scenario will be about 25% of the meal and will serve to prevent the breakdown of muscle for fuel during your workout. Here are some great options to try:
- Oatmeal + Berries + Hemp Seeds + Pure Maple Syrup
- Grain Bread + Hummus + Hard Boiled Egg + Sliced Cucumber
- Quinoa + Chicken Breast + Spinach + Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Brown Rice Pasta + Cooked Shrimp + Tomato Basil Sauce
- Egg White + Veggie Scramble + Grain Toast
post workout nutrition:
After you have worked up a sweat it’s time to replenish and repair.
It is crucial to eat within one hour after your workout (within 30 minutes is ideal). The longer you take to replenish after exercise, the longer it takes your body to recover.
The ideal macronutrient combination post-workout is actually the same, carbohydrates and protein, with a little more emphasis on protein. Research has shown that consuming protein and carbohydrates within 15-minutes post-exercise can nearly double the insulin response in the body, which results in more stored glycogen.
Small meals or snacks that combine protein (for muscle repair and recovery) and carbohydrates (for replenishing glycogen) truly help you get the most out of your workout. Try these:
- Protein Powder shaken with Water or Almond Milk + Apple on the side
- Protein Powder + Fruit Smoothie
- Banana + Almonds
- Tuna Snack + Seed Crackers
- Brown Rice Tortilla + Chicken Breast + Spinach + Salsa
- Salad Greens + Chicken Breast or Shrimp + Quinoa + Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Scrambled Eggs + Grain Toast
I hope you have enjoyed this little educational post and feel inspired and motivated to prioritize your nutrition around your workouts. The food you eat pre and post workout really should work for you not against you!
Be sure to grab my FREE downloadable e-book guide on pre and post workout nutrition below!
Have a wonderful Sunday,
Christal // NITK