Many fitness enthusiasts and workout aficionados often wonder whether they should eat before or after a workout in order to get the most out of their exercise routines. The short answer to this question is both – you can eat before and after a workout and see great benefits from each.
Your next question might be, why? And what are the best options available to us before and after our workouts?
According to Time magazine, the quick and easy response of “both” was explained in this fashion by Dr. Nancy Cohen, head of the department of Nutrition at the University of Massachusetts in a recent article:
“In general, you’ll want to eat a meal high in carbs and protein and low in fat roughly three to four hours before you exercise,” the good doctor offers. “Whether you’re trying to shed pounds or build muscle. Carbohydrates supply your body with the glycogen it needs for your yoga session, gym visit, or jog. Skimp on carbs, and your muscles will sputter when called on to perform.”
“After exercise, your muscle cells break down and (then) rebuild,” Dr. Cohen explains. The right proteins contain the amino acids your muscles need to complete that cellular rebuilding process.” She goes on to advise, “Complete protein packages include animal sources like chicken or lean beef, since they have all those amino acids.”
Of course, staying hydrated during our routines is also important, but there is one thing that remained consistent in the recommendations offered by this nutritional expert. In both instances, Dr. Cohen explained that consumption of certain foods, either before or after a workout or fitness routine, should be done in advance or sometime after a workout.
Specifically, Dr. Cohen recommends at least an hour or two between eating and the pre- or post-existing activities are actually performed. Despite what we may have seen at the gym, witnessed on television or seen on movie screens, drinking a smoothie or protein shake immediately following exercise is not necessarily a part of this healthy routine.
Dr. Rob Danoff, a physician whose expertise focuses on sports medicine and nutrition, warns health-conscious individuals that our kidneys can only process so much protein. Dr Danoff’s research suggests roughly one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight is plenty to maximize muscle growth.
Given this information, for a person who weighs around 175 pounds, 80 grams of protein a day is more than enough for the human body to process in a healthy way. Without regard for this process, people risk kidney problems and other potential health risks.
Digesting this information (pardon the pun) appears challenging enough, but the folks over at Fitness Magazine have put together a before-and-after menu worth some consideration:
Before the Workout
- Contrary to what we said before about shakes following a workout, smoothies can help to give us a nice little boost without weighing us down.
- Prior to our workout, it’s suggested that a balance of simple and complex carbohydrates will do us well. Whole wheat toast with fruit will compliment this mixture.
- Another popular breakfast food that can be consumed during any time of day is oatmeal along with fresh fruit and nuts.
After the Workout
- For those of us that work out in the AM (or any other time of day), consider an protein-packed breakfast omelet with veggies along with some olive oil and avocado.
- During this recovery period, these fitness experts recommend grilled chicken and veggies to help rebuild muscles.
- Fish is another great, lean protein that includes salmon, tuna and other options that make a great ingredient in a salad or as a main dish.
Whether you’re looking to bulk up or lose weight, it’s important to find the right fitness and dietary routine that works best for you and your unique circumstances. Consider all of your eating choices whenever you work out, before and after. During your exercise regime, don’t forget to drink plenty of good, old fashioned H2O to remain hydrated and stay healthy!