What Should I Eat When I Workout?

When you take the time to workout, perhaps early in the morning (or in between classes if you are a student), you want to make sure your nutrition allows you to reap all the benefits of the exercise.

Not only is nutrition key to see your performance reach its potential, but nutrition also plays a vital role in preventing muscle fatigue and injury. Here are some basic steps of how to ensure that you are fueling your body best; before, during and after workouts (plus what not to do).

Before workouts

Aim to have a balanced meal, consisting of a whole grain, protein and vegetables 2-4 hours before hitting the gym. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a fist sized grain (such as a medium potato or cup of pasta), a deck of card size protein (such as a medium chicken breast) and 2 fist fulls of vegetables. If you are working out in the morning, choose an easy to digest grain or fruit with some protein 30-60 minutes beforehand. For example, a piece of toast with peanut butter or a hard boiled egg and a small muffin are good options to get your body ready for exercise.

Tip: Skip the pre-workout drinks. Most of these products will give you a large dose of caffeine, which is often what is responsible for the boost in energy. They often contain many other ingredients that can have variable effects for people and are not always safe. Rather, rely on balanced nutrition and enough rest to give you the boost you need for your workouts.

During workouts

Unless you are training for a marathon, most people only require water during workouts. Aim for 2-3 cups/hour of exercise. If you are someone who has a higher sweat rate than the average individual, aim for the higher end of this range.

Tip: Skip the Gatorade. Again, unless you have a very high volume or very high intensity training in your daily routine, most people do not require additional sugar during workouts. Stick with water so you don’t negate the energy you are expending while working out.

After work-outs

This is truly very individual based on the intensity of your workouts, the number of sessions in a day/week and what your goals are. Generally, ensure that you have a small snack containing protein and carbohydrate (sugar) that is easy to digest within 30 minutes of working out. Some quick options would be Greek yogurt or banana and peanut butter or a protein bar (look for 10-15g protein per bar).

Tip: Skip the coffee. It is best to wait at least 1-2 hour after exercise to enjoy coffee or other caffeinated beverages. This is because it interferes with your hydration. Ensure your urine is clear/pale yellow before sipping on that java.