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How to Fuel a Workout
Previously written by Teresa S. , Personal Trainer

What to Eat Before a Workout (and After!)
What are the best items to snack on to fuel a workout? Depends on when you work out and when you eat. The closer you are to working out, the less you eat and the easier to digest carbohydrate you take in. So, three to four hours before, a typical mixed meal of your choice be it a stir-fry, sandwich, pasta dis h… works as you have time to digest. f you miss that window, then two to three hours before choose a lighter snack like a yogurt, fruit and handful of nuts. Or a banana and some peanut butter and a glass of milk. Miss THAT window of time? One to two hours before try up to 50 grams of carbohydrate, like an 8-ounce homemade smoothie, low-fiber cereal and milk or yogurt. Fifteen to 30 minutes before you start, if you have not eaten or need to "top off the tank," try 15 to 25 grams of an easily digestible carbohydrate, like 4 to 8 ounces of 100 percent orange juice, a granola bar, a small handful of raisins or a sports drink or gel.

Don't overdo it. Unless you're exercising intensely for more than an hour you don't need a snack while working out. If you're out all day skiing, stash some trail mix in your pocket, or bring along chicken broth in a thermos to provide a little warmth and replenish fluids and sodium lost on the slopes.

What if you're not hungry before a morning workout — force yourself to eat something, or just wait until post-workout? This depends on the length and intensity of your workout as well as your exercise goal.

Doing an easy workout to get blood moving? Food is not essential.

  • If you're not hungry in the morning but working out intensely, choose just enough carbohydrate to "top off" your tank. Fifteen to 25 grams of carbohydrate is all you need to boost your blood sugar, keeping you coordinated and focused as you move. Something as simple as a orange juice or a handful of pretzels, or a small bowl of cereal and milk each work.
  • Then be sure to consume a great recovery breakfast rich in protein and carbohydrates.
What are a few of the ideal post-workout recovery snacks? After a workout, look to replenish and rebuild with protein and carbohydrates. Depending on your size and the intensity of your workout, aim for a snack that contains 10 to 20 grams of protein and 20 to 80 grams of carbohydrates. One of my favorite post-workout recovery snacks is this Orange Vanilla Crème Smoothie.

When should you have something to eat while you're actually working out? And what would you recommend? This really depends on the situation. If you're breaking a sweat on a 2-mile walk or run, hitting the shower, grabbing some breakfast and getting to work, you don't need to eat anything. If you're taking a really intense Spin class and then gearing up for a session of heavy lifting, a mid-workout snack can help your energy stores for round two of exercise. If performance is your goal, the general guideline is to consume 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates every 20 minutes of rigorous exercise for a total of 60 to 80 grams per hour when you're working hard and going long. You can start taking in carbohydrates 45 minutes to 75 minutes into your workout. And remember hydration is always important.

What's the biggest food mistakes you think people make when it comes to pre- and post-workout snacks/meals?

The biggest food mistakes I think people make when it comes to pre- and post-workout snacks/meals are either eating too little or too much. Fueling before, during and after exercise can be helpful to sustain and replenish energy stores, but only if they're running low. There is no need to overcompensate with calories if you are not working out hard or for a long period of time. Stocking up on fuel before or during exercise can actually backfire and ruin your workout. Stomach cramping or the feeling of sloshing in the stomach after taking in too much food (in the form of gels, Gus, bars and/or drinks) is a sign that you have had too much.

If your exercise goal is weight-loss, appropriate pre- and post-workout snacks can be helpful in helping to manage your appetite and sugar cravings.

Written by:
Fremont Health Club Staff
Seattle, WA
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