Your body undergoes an inordinate amount of stress during a workout. It requires fuel – carbohydrates, protein, and good fats – in sufficient levels to sustain rigorous activity and ensure that you don’t crash and burn halfway through. And afterwards, extra minerals are needed to replenish muscles and prevent them from breaking down. By eating these nutrient-packed foods before and after a run or a session at the gym, you will maximize the benefits of your workout and help your body recover faster.
The best time to eat is 30 minutes prior to a workout. That way, you avoid lightheadedness, fatigue, and low blood sugar. Don’t overeat, and do skip the fatty foods, which take too long to metabolize and can cause sluggishness. The ideal meal contains moderate amounts of protein, moderate to high low-glycemic carbohydrates, and low fat.
Oatmeal: This high-fiber cereal has both simple and complex carbohydrates. The former provides immediate fuel, while the latter breaks down more slowly, providing your body energy that it can harness later. It also has the added benefit of lowering your LDL, the “bad cholesterol.” Choose whole grain rolled oats, which still have their fibrous bran and germ layers intact.
Banana. Bananas are loaded with fiber and potassium, an essential macromineral that helps maintain muscle function and minimize cramping. Potassium also regulates the electrical activity of the heart, which can double in rate during cardio exercises.
Greek Yogurt. Greek yogurt has only half the carbs but almost twice the protein of regular yogurt, making it nutritionally superior. It also has a higher concentration of probiotics, the beneficial gut microbes that fortify the immune system.
Berries. The more colorful they are, the more phytochemicals they contain. These antioxidants protect the cells from the damaging oxidative effects of free radicals, which are created more during intense physical activity.
Eat within one hour after exercising. That’s when the muscles are better primed for nutrient absorption to help repair microtears and hasten recovery. Fast-absorbing carbohydrates, such as those sourced from fruits, will restore depleted glycogen stores, while easily digestible, high quality lean protein optimizes muscle rebuilding.
Salmon. This super food contains bioactive peptides, amino acids that exhibit antihypertensive and antioxdative properties. Salmon is also a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids, the healthy fat that combats inflammation, reduces muscle soreness, and boosts joint health. For a quick meal, serve salmon flakes–or tuna–between slices of whole wheat bread.
Quinoa. A grain that contains all the essential amino acids you need, quinoa is rich in protein and contains more fiber and iron than brown rice. Add in diced fruit for sweetness and an extra boost of vitamins.
Nuts. Almonds, cashew nuts, and soy nuts pack a lot of protein, fiber, and omega 3. And if you worked up a sweat during your workout, the additional sodium will help you replenish electrolytes. Keep a small packet of nuts in your gym bag for a quick snack between or after workouts.