As a general rule, pre-workout food should consist of carbohydrates, a little fat, and some protein. The main source of energy for the body comes from carbohydrates so you should NOT be afraid to consume this important food group, especially before working out! Depending on the way your daily schedule unfolds and the time at which you workout, the pre-workout food could be a significant meal (400-500 calories) or a smaller snack (100-200ish calories). If you are having a meal, make sure it is consumed at least 1 hour before your workout, so that there’s plenty of time for digestion. If its a smaller snack, you can move it up to 30 mins before your workout. There is a bit of trial & error with how close to your workout time you can eat. Ideally you want to eat as close to the time of your workout as possible WITHOUT feeling ill!
Some of my favorite pre-workout snacks are: apple & natural nut butter; 1 slice Ezekiel sprout bread toasted w/nut butter and sliced banana; greek yoghurt w/granola; 1 slice Ezekiel sprout bread with 1 string cheese; homemade smoothie w/1 cup milk and 1 banana or other fruit.
It is absolutely IMPERATIVE to eat after a workout. I have talked with so many people who think “I just worked out SO hard and burned ALL These calories. The last thing I want to do is go ingest them all again! I’m not eating!” I promise you, that’s not the way our bodies work. After a workout, our bodies are depleted of glycogen stores and we are in somewhat of a starvation mode. The main purpose of the post-workout meal is to stop protein breakdown, start protein resynthesis, and replenish glycogen stores. Basically we need to give the body food to replenish itself, and build lean muscle. And the sooner it happens, the better. Immediately after and up to two hours post-workout is the key time to eat.
The question becomes: how much do I eat after I workout? What if its late, and its right before bed? Do I eat a snack or a full meal? The answer is- it depends. People who work out first thing in the morning will have a small pre-workout snack, and then can eat a proper breakfast when they are done. If your workout takes place in the middle of the day after lunch, a post-workout snack will do the trick. Those who work out later in the evening may have a small mid-afternoon snack before the workout and then should have a proper dinner afterwards. People are often wary to eat a meal close to bedtime, but it is my belief that to omit a meal entirely is more detrimental. A meal consisting of lean protein, some carbs, and veggies is a perfect thing to have after a workout, even if it’s an hour before bedtime.
Some of my favorite post-workout meals/snacks : milk or greek yoghurt with cereal; egg whites w/spinach, tomato, mushroom and part skim mozzarella; apple with natural nut butter; grilled chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread.
The bottom line is this: there is no single “correct” way to eat pre/post workout. Aim to follow key principles outlined here and tailoring them to meet your dietary needs, and schedule. If you find it overwhelming or difficult, try meeting with a personal trainer or a registered nutritionist and talk detail about a specific plan for YOU!