Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. When you fuel your workouts with the right nutrients, you’ll help your body perform its best and recover properly. Following a few basic principles can go a long way, whether your fitness goals are related to losing weight or building muscle. Here’s a basic guide to help you get started.
1. Choose something with carbs.
During exercise, your muscles use carbs (glucose) as their preferred source of energy. Roughly an hour or two before your workout, have some carbs to help top off their energy stores.
Try to go for carbs that digest quickly, so you can prevent unpleasant cramps during your workout. Foods that slow down digestion—anything with too much fiber, protein, or fat—can increase your likelihood of cramps.
Fresh fruit, like a banana or a handful of grapes, is usually a good bet. You can also have a slice of whole-grain bread or a small bowl of oatmeal (since oatmeal has a lot of fiber, having a small portion will help ensure you have enough time to digest it).
2. If strength training, have a bit of protein too.
After you lift weights or do other kinds of strength training, your muscles will use protein to repair themselves. To make sure you have enough protein in your system for recovery, have a small portion before your workout.
Similar to the carb-rich foods, go for a protein source that your body can digest quickly. This will vary from person to person, so you may have to experiment with a few different protein sources until you find the right one.
These no-bake Coconut Almond Energy Balls
have a good mix of carbs and protein and are great for when you’re on the go. You can also try a scoop of Greek yogurt or a couples slices of deli meat.
3. Drink a tall glass of water.
Don’t wait until you start sweating to hydrate your body. And unless you’re marathon training, there’s no need to reach for a sports drink. Plain ‘ol water should do the trick.
How do you know if you’re hydrated? You can judge by checking the color of your urine. The goal color is a light lemonade-esque hue. If it errs on the side of apple juice, reach for an extra glass or two.
1. Have a plate that includes protein and carbs.
Whether your workout focused on cardio or strength training, your muscles will likely be craving some protein and carbs. Try to eat relatively soon after you finish your workout (within roughly an hour), so your muscles repair and refuel properly.
If you don’t have time for a complete meal, you can make a smoothie with fruit (carbs) and Greek yogurt (protein), like this High Protein Mango Lassi
created by our chefs.
2. Don’t forget the veggies.
After a tough workout, you may feel super hungry and ready to eat everything in sight. It’s a good idea to include some non-starchy vegetables in your post-workout meal because they’re typically light in calories and can help fill you up. Plus, vegetables provide vitamins and minerals that work alongside protein and carbs to repair and refuel your muscles.
3. Hydrate again.
The more you sweat during your workout, the more water you should drink afterwards. The exact amount will vary from person to person, so it’s best to listen to your body’s thirst signals and drink until you feel hydrated.