National Nutrition Month: Eating Before & After Your Workouts
When workouts are intense and time is limited, it can be hard to prioritize what's on your plate. Of course, getting the right nutrition before and after a workout looks different for everyone—especially with routines and priorities changing so drastically—but there's a way to feel properly fueled no matter your activity level.
“What I have learned is that the answers and solutions are always going to change and evolve, and the best way to navigate through them is by knowing their related fundamental principles and then deciding what is best for YOUR body,” Coach Lex told us. “With that said, when it comes to pre and post workout fuel, many factors come into play such as the timing of your workout, the type of workout you are participating in, and your general dietary needs and preferences.”
Instead of focusing on a strict meal plan (and risk getting bored), fuel your workouts by understanding these factors to help pick what your body needs.
- Timing. Timing is a key factor when considering what to eat, especially before a workout. Generally speaking, you want to give yourself a minimum of one hour of digestion time before you begin your workout if eating solid foods. Let’s get even more specific: If you’re hitting an early morning workout, it won’t be realistic for you to eat a big breakfast prior, as you would need to wake up at an unrealistic hour. Not only that, I don’t recommend eating for at least 30 minutes after waking up to give your system a chance to get going. For early morning workouts (5:30-7:30am), I recommend sticking to hydrating and energy boosting liquids such as green juice, matcha, or coconut water. Or, if you’re someone who knows they need something more substantial than this, try fast and easily digestible foods like yogurt, berries, banana or simple oats. Just remember that your body needs time to convert this food into energy that can be utilized during your workout.
- Dietary needs and preferences. There are many sources out there that recommend a variety of different pre and post workout snacks, but what you need to consider is if they are what’s best for you. For example, if you’re someone who struggles with digestion, you need to be extra cautious when choosing the right pre-workout foods. Because your body may take longer and work harder to breakdown foods, you may want to give yourself a minimum of two to three hours to digest a heavier meal before working out. Some people can digest food at a much higher rate and convert it into energy quickly, giving them more flexibility when it comes to food options and timing.
- Recovery. This is an area that definitely has more flexibility. During your workout your body utilizes glycogen, the fuel that is stored in your muscles. In order to replenish and restore your glycogen levels and rebuild muscle that has been broken down, it’s important to refuel with protein and carbs anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours after exercising. In P.volve, we are focused on activating and lengthening our muscles without breaking them down in an over-exaggerated way, so there's less need to restore glycogen levels in the same way you would if you were heavy lifting. Options for post-workout fuel at P.volve can be as light as a green juice or plant-powered protein smoothie. Or, if you need something more substantial, a simply-cooked protein with a side of complex carb.
Alexa Shamis is an Integrative Health Coach, with certification from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition as well as a certification from Nutritious Life. She loves sharing her movements and meals with others, as well as helping guide people down the right path to wellness. For more of her tips and advice, follow her at @lexshamis.