So, you’ve started exercising, you’re beginning to see results and you’re feeling fitter, stronger and healthier but are you putting the correct fuel into your body? Eating the right foods at the right time of day is very important for fitness as it means that you will get the most out of your workout. Not eating before a workout can result in low blood sugar, leaving you feeling light-headed and tired.
Whether you’re exercising to lose weight, get fit or just for fun, it’s important to eat the right foods before a session. If you eat the right foods, you can have a successful workout. It’s best to have a little portion and eat 30 minutes before the workout to ensure the protein and carbohydrates have begun to break down (and so you don’t feel nauseous!).
It’s important to remember that although fruit is healthy, it’s best to eat it whole and not in a smoothie. This is because when the fruit is broken down before eating, the sugar can be more quickly absorbed by the blood. However, a smoothie now and then isn’t the end of the world – Hannah loves one on a Saturday morning! The natural sugar from a smoothie is better than a chocolate bar, just enjoy them in moderation.
Breakfast is very important when exercising as this will help to restore your blood sugar (needed to fuel your muscles and brain) but it’s essential to eat the right foods. Grabbing a white bagel, doughnut or muffin is not only unhealthy, but it won’t keep you feeling full for very long.
The top 5 foods to eat before a workout are:
Bananas: Although these are not Hannah’s personal choice, they are very good for you. They are known as nature’s power bar and are loaded with digestible carbohydrates which provide energy. They are also packed with potassium which is great for aiding muscle and nerve function. Try eating a banana on its own or chop it up and have on a slice of wholegrain toast.
Oats: Oats gradually release carbohydrate into the blood stream as they are packed with fibre. This then keeps energy levels consistent during your workout. They’re also filled with vitamin B which converts the carbohydrate to energy. Try your oats with a little yoghurt and fruit for a delicious snack.
Wholegrain bread: Wholegrain bread is a great source of carbohydrate. Add poached, scrambled or fried eggs on top for protein. If you’re making scrambled eggs, try adding some fresh spinach or mushrooms to it. Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on wholegrain toast is a personal favourite of both Hannah and Caroline.
Fruit and yogurt: Fruit is high in carbohydrates that can break down quickly. Protein doesn’t break down quickly enough for a workout but the protein from the fruit will be broken down later to prevent muscle damage. Greek yoghurt is also packed full of protein and tastes delicious with fruit, you could even add a bit of honey for a little sweetness.
Apple slices dipped in peanut butter/almond butter: Packed with protein and carbs this is a delicious snack perfect for on the go!
Low carb or no carb diets seem to be very trendy now but remember that carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy! This is especially important if you are exercising. Imagine trying to drive your car with no petrol in it! Make sure that you’re eating the right type of carbs and not sweets and processed foods. You should be eating complex carbs which are found in whole grains, fruit, beans and vegetables. They help to stabilise your blood sugar levels, contain the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy and as these are digested more slowly it means you will feel fuller for longer.
So, now you know when and what to eat before your workout, what about after?
You’ve done your workout and you’re feeling energised, happy and mentally awake and probably very hungry! Be careful that you don’t undo all your hard work by reaching for a chocolate bar or a bag of crisps! It’s important to eat something beneficial, healthy and delicious. You use a lot of energy when you exercise so it’s important to replenish it within a couple of hours to ensure optimum muscle recovery. Protein is very important for repairing muscles, and this can be found in chicken, salmon, tuna, milk, yogurt, beans, lentils and eggs. Eating a healthy snack or meal after a workout is a must – even if it’s just a handful of blueberries.
The top 5 foods to east after exercising are:
Omelette: Eggs contain protein and carbohydrates, two key post-workout nutrients. With only 70 calories per egg and 6.3 grams of protein, as well as, naturally containing vitamin D, they’re our number 1 go to snack. Try having an omelette with ham for an even higher protein-based meal. Tip: cooking your eggs allows your body to absorb almost twice the amount of protein as eating raw eggs – so don’t believe all you see in the films (ahem…Rocky).
Salmon: Salmon, as well as, being packed with protein, also has omega-3 that reduces inflammation, rebuilds your muscles and gives support to your joints. Add some sweet potatoes to help restore your glycogen levels for a delicious and healthy meal.
Fruit: Fruit is delicious, healthy and refreshing which is great for after a workout when you don’t want something too heavy. Pineapple contains bromelain which has been proven to heal bruises, sprains and swelling. It’s also high in vitamin C, which helps repair tissue. Blueberries are also a great choice as they contain antioxidants and can triple your rate of recovery after an intense workout! A personal favourite of Hannah’s, kiwi, contains high levels of vitamin C and potassium, as well as, antioxidants. Try having a fruit salad mixing pineapple, blueberries and kiwi together for an ultimate healthy kick!
Hummus: Hummus contains protein and slow release carbs which will keep your energy levels up after a workout and prevent the post-workout slump. Try this with some wholegrain pita for a delicious snack, or for a substantial lunch, try a hummus and tuna sandwich in wholegrain bread.
Water: We know this isn’t a food, but it is very important to stay hydrated after a workout. In fact, water has been proven to boost your metabolism, and thus aid weight loss. Try infusing your water with different fruits, lemons or cucumber for an interesting and healthy change. Different fruits will provide different benefits, so you could even try a different one each day!
The main thing to remember is that you need to achieve the right balance of protein and carbs, which will make you feel energised, and will help fuel your exercise routine. Filling up on snacks that contain a lot of fat and sugar will leave you feeling lethargic and sluggish and you won’t get the best out of your workout.
Hopefully you’ll love these post-workout snacks just as much as we do! And just remember, a small healthy snack after exercising is better for you than not eating at all (even if you’re exercising to lose weight – cutting too many calories from your diet can leave you feeling exhausted or ill which is your body’s way of telling you that you are not getting the calories you need for good health). Be healthy and happy!
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Or, learn about Meal Planning on a Budget in our other blog post.
Hannah & Caroline xx