Should you eat a pre-workout snack?
Depends on your goals.
Training for weight loss
The concept of fasting before a morning workout stems from the fact that your glycogen levels are often depleted after a night of not eating, which allows your body to potentially burn more fat (as your body relies on glycogen and body fat as its main sources of fuel). If your main goal is weight loss, it can be helpful to train on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
However, if you’re working out later in the day, focus on consuming complex carbohydrates like beans, brown rice, and starchy vegetables as fuel sources, as well as clean protein like lean chicken, fish, or greek yoghurt to support muscle growth and recovery.
Training for muscle gain
If you’re doing intense workouts with the aim of building muscle mass, it’s ideal to eat both before and after a workout. Correct nutrition will support muscle mass growth, reduce recovery time, and provide you with energy to smash through your workout.
When eating 2-4 hours before a workout, consume a combination of all macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat). Team a complex carbohydrate source (quinoa, millet, starchy vegetables, brown rice) with lean protein (eggs, lean chicken, fish, tofu), and a source of healthy fat (almond butter, ABC butter, peanut butter).
If you’re eating 1-2 hours before working out, opt for carbs and protein with a small amount of healthy fat. Try lighter, easy to digest combinations like fruit (carbohydrates) with some cottage cheese or greek yogurt (protein and a little fat), or oatmeal with almond butter and fruit.
Why is post-workout nutrition important?
Your body stores excess energy in the form of glycogen and protein; when you’re working out, your muscles use up glycogen stores for fuel. After working out, your muscles use any available protein to rebuild, with carbs and protein being most effectively absorbed by your body for up to 45 minutes after exercise (also known as the ‘post-workout window’).
Consuming the right foods can help your body rebuild its glycogen stores and regrow muscle protein, making it particularly important to focus on consuming protein and carbs after working out.
The best foods to eat after a workout
Water, coconut water, and herbal tea
It’s essential to replenish the fluids you sweated out during exercise; drink at least 500mls of water after working out. You could also opt for potassium rich coconut water or antioxidant rich herbal tea (like yerba mate served chilled) to keep you hydrated.
Complex carbohydrates and healthy protein
To replenish your glycogen stores and allow your muscles to recover, focus on refueling with carbs and protein.
Complex carbohydrate sources include:
- Brown rice
- Beans and legumes
Healthy protein sources include:
- Lean chicken
- Beans and legumes
The high protein content in peanut butter helps with recovery and muscle repair after a tough workout.
Eating whole eggs after a workout can help with muscle gain. While egg whites contain the same protein content as whole eggs, the healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals found in the egg yolks aid your muscles in absorbing the protein more efficiently than consuming egg whites alone.
Bananas and almond butter
One of the best foods to snack on post-workout, bananas are rich in carbohydrates which are essential for replenishing glycogen stores, as well as potassium which helps maintain fluid balance and prevent muscle cramps. Team a banana with a tablespoon of almond butter for a hit of protein and healthy fats.
Though it often falls in the shadow of its more popular cousin greek yogurt, cottage cheese actually has more protein gram for gram and contains the amino acid leucine which helps with building and maintaining muscle post-workout.
For fast post-workout recovery, you can’t go wrong with a protein packed smoothie. In a blender, blitz non-dairy milk with pea or whey protein powder, berries, greens, and almond butter for a balanced post-workout snack in under two minutes.