By Beth Roessner
What do you crave after a long yoga practice or a challenging strength session? Do you want something salty, meaty and full of flavor? Or maybe you’re hankering for something a little sweeter?
Whatever you’re craving, honor those cravings by creating a balanced snack or meal full of nutrients to help your body repair.
Pre- and post-workout nutrition is different for every athlete based on their dietary needs and preferences. But, we all need quality foods to feel our best.
Opinions vary on pre-workout nutrition. If your workout or run is scheduled first thing in the morning, and your body does fine on an empty stomach, then complete your workout. (This is considered a fasted state.)
However, some people do benefit from a little bit of carbs first-thing in the morning. Reach for a piece of fruit for quick energy. If you’re working out between meals, grab a small snack about 30 minutes before you workout to keep your energy levels up. Easy-to-digest carbs like bananas or rice cakes would be perfect. If you’re really hungry, add a dollop of nut butter for fats and protein.
After a tough workout, there is a short window of 30 to 60 minutes to refuel and replenish the body. Eating right after a workout helps enhance recovery, restore glycogen stores, and helps with muscle growth. (What’s glycogen? It’s how our body stores energy for later use.) Stick with a snack that’s full of protein and carbohydrates. Fats slow down the digestion process, but they will not reduce the benefits of a post-workout snack.
While some athletes benefit from tracking calories, don’t let those numbers dictate your snacking choices. Listen to your hunger cues and see what your body is telling you. If you’re hungry enough for a full meal, then eat a full meal. If you’re not too hungry, then grab a small snack. Just ensure for all options you’re eating a combination of muscle-building proteins and energy-boosting carbs.
Good snack ideas include a small baked sweet potato and chicken, hard-boiled eggs and fruit, or plain yogurt with fruit. A runner favorite, of course, is anything slathered in peanut butter.
Smoothies are also a great idea for a post-workout snack or meal because they can pack a nutritional punch. Great add-ins include whole-food protein powder, frozen cauliflower, spinach or kale, peanut butter, berries and bananas, beets, cacao powder, seeds, or even spices like turmeric and ginger. An added benefit, smoothies are also easy to digest. Because they are already blended, the body doesn’t need to spend much energy breaking down the food. It can assimilate the nutrients quickly and get you on the road to recovery faster.
Or, depending on what time you’ve completed your workout, go right into a meal. Like preparing a snack, create a meal that’s rich in proteins and carbs — scrambled eggs and toast, salmon and sweet potato, quinoa and chicken.