Your pre- and post-workout food choices can make a big difference in what you achieve in terms of muscle mass. Even though intense workouts are still the main driver of developing a muscular physique, what you eat before and after exercise is the spark fueling this process.
During a workout, your body goes into a catabolic state breaking down muscle tissue. After a workout, you want to put it back into an anabolic state or where it builds muscle. The ideal scenario is to have both a pre- and post-workout fuel source – you want a food containing protein helping preserve and build muscle during exercise and a food containing carbohydrate supplying sufficient energy to spare protein, ensuring it will be used primarily for muscle building.
Pre-workout snacks should be eaten within one to two hours before – only eat to the point of what feels comfortable without weighing you down. Even just a small handful of food can be sufficient to assure you have enough fuel to get through the workout. Some people may avoid eating before exercise but here are a few reasons to reconsider why a pre-workout snack can help:
· It helps prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This helps avoid any feelings of lightheadedness or fatigue.
· It helps ward off hunger that can disrupt your exercise routine.
· The carbohydrates you eat fuel your muscles with glycogen enabling them to work harder and feeds your brain to keep you alert.
· It’s no different from filling your car with fuel before a road trip to prevent it running out of gas; you need to fuel your body with food to energize your workout.
Post-workout snacks should be eaten within 45 - 60 minutes to supply the nourishment your muscles need to repair and build muscle fibers.
Everyone will have their own ideas and unique food preferences they like that works best for them. What works for one person may not work for another. The idea is to establish the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and even some fat both before and after a workout to optimize the results you desire from your exercise routine.
Pre-workout snacks ideas
· Banana with peanut butter
· Apple slices with string cheese
· Cottage cheese with berries
· Handful of trail mix with orange slices
· Blue Diamond Artisan Nut-Thins crackers (chia seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds) with hummus
· Hard-boiled egg with dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries, apricots, etc.)
· Protein bars – look for ones with less than 200 calories, 7 grams of sugar and 12 grams of fat. Good brand choices are: Quest Bars, KIND fruit and nut delight bars, Pure Protein bars, Power Crunch bars, Detour bars, and Think Thin bars
· Handful of pistachios or almonds with blueberries, cherries or grapes
· Steel cut or rolled oats with berries and sliced almonds
· Handful of Planters NUT-rition Heart Healthy Mix and kiwifruit slices
Post-workout snacks ideas
· Tuna or salmon packets or pop-top cans with whole wheat crackers
· Greek yogurt with berries and walnuts or Greek yogurt with berries and granola
· Chocolate milk or soymilk with whey protein powder
· Cheese and whole wheat crackers
· Scrambled eggs with mushrooms, green peppers or any other vegetables
· Fruit smoothie made with 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt, ½ cup low-fat milk, ½ cup frozen fruit, and ¼ cup orange juice
· Banana-peanut butter smoothie – blend 1 cup low-fat milk, one banana and 1 tbsp. peanut butter
· Green smoothie – Blend 2 cups spinach, ½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt, 1 cup almond milk, and one banana with ice
· Turkey or chicken sandwich with a handful of grapes
· Have a spinach salad with black beans or chickpeas, walnuts, sliced strawberries, and any other vegetables you want to add.