Food is fuel. This was a simple truth that I came to realize early on in my fitness journey. Many months in, I was frustrated because I didn’t understand why some exercise sessions were so much more difficult to push through than others, even though it was essentially the same exercise routine. Then I picked up the Encyclopedia of Sports & Fitness Nutrition by Liz Applegate, and it help me finally connect the dots. To quote:
When you don’t eat the right foods – or worse, don’t eat at all – your muscles often don’t fully restock their fuel stores
Sure enough, I wasn’t eating properly (still lots of friend food in my diet) and I wasn’t eating properly before exercise sessions, which would lead me to not have a high enough level of energy to perform.
Today, I see some of my clients make the same mistake. They don’t eat something prior to our training sessions, or they eat the wrong meal, and it leads to a training session that is labored, or even cut short because of dizziness or lack of energy.
So what should you eat before exercise? It should be something that is somewhat high in carbohydrates and low in fat. Something light that won’t upset your stomach while exercising. Here are a few of my go to pre-workout meals:
- An apple with a spoonful of peanut butter (one of my favorites)
- A banana
- A granola bar (my go to is usually a KIND Bar)
- A handful of raisins and almonds
I try to eat one of these 30-60 minutes prior to my exercise session. In addition, you should make sure to drink at least 20 oz of water at least 2 hours prior to exercise, or if that’s not realistic because it’s an early morning workout, at least 7-12 oz of water 10 minutes prior to exercise (say drink it on the way to the gym). You want to avoid eating a heavy meal, especially something greasy like fried chicken or french fries, or else you migth not just be sluggish but nauseous as well.
What should you eat after exercise? In order to replenish energy stores, it’s best to eat something within 30 minutes of exercise. The focus here should be on carbohydrates and protein to feed your muscles. Here are some ideas for post workout snacks:
- 1 cup of Greek yogurt with berries
- Oatmeal with fruit and a scrambled egg
- Egg white omelet with tomatoes and spinach with two slices of whole wheat toast
- Turkey in a whole grain wrap with veggies
- Smoothie with low fat milk and fruits
If you’ve been having challenges with not having enough energy during your exercise sessions, then take a step back and look at your eating habits. Applying one of these tips might help you have more energy in your next workout.