I'm going to share a secret with you. Before I went to school to become a registered dietitian nutritionist, I didn't know you were supposed to eat before a workout. But it totally makes sense that you should eat up!
You need fuel to power your exercise session. So be sure you're ready for cardio, weights, HIIT training, or whatever workout you fancy with a power pre-workout snack or meal. Although there's no blanket rule for what to eat, I'm giving you guidelines that'll help! I also have a short list of what foods to skip before a workout. What fitness goals will you accomplish today after you gobble up this advice?
Should You Eat Carbs Before a Workout?
What Dietitians Eat Pre- and Post-Workout
I like my snacks a lot. I eat one or two most days, and I time these around my workouts (these days, Spin and Pilates classes!). One of my favorite exercise snacks is pictured here!
I’ll usually have a snack either an hour before I get moving or 30 minutes to two hours after my workout. Because I plan it this way, I’m not adding extra snacks to my day.
One of my favorite post-workout snacks is a banana and a cup of low-fat 1% milk. The steamed milk dresses up regular milk, and it provides both protein and carbs to fuel me.
The banana provides additional filling fiber. For your noshing inspiration, I asked a few of my registered dietitian pals for their exercise snack suggestions.
1. Greek Yogurt + Fruit + Nuts
“My favorite thing to eat after a workout is plain low-fat Greek yogurt with a cup of fresh fruit and a sprinkle of walnuts or almonds,” says Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CSCS, owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness (). “This provides a good balance of protein and carbohydrates to help with muscle recovery and replenish glycogen stores, while the fat in the nuts helps keep me full longer.”
Try it: ½ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt + ½ cup fruit + ½ Tbsp walnuts
“The protein and carbs in edamame help you through a workout or repair muscles after a workout,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a dietitian in New York City.
Try it: ½ cup shelled edamame
3. Sweet Potato + Parmesan
“Roast a sweet potato and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on it,” suggests Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, author of 25 Anti-Aging Smoothies for Revitalizing, Glowing Skin. “This snack provides a fabulous afternoon pick-me-up when you need some more energy to get you through the day. The sweet potato also has antioxidants and vitamin C and A for additional health benefits.”
Try it: 1 small baked sweet potato + ½ Tbsp grated Parmesan
Foods You Should Never Eat Before a Workout
We've chatted about what to eat before a workout. Now, let's talk about what to skip. I'm not usually one to tell you to not eat certain foods, but the fact is some items could make your workout less efficient.
I mean, who wants to feel gassy or have stomach cramps during a workout?! In this EatThis.com article, I share foods you should add to your pre-workout "skip" list.
Amy's Recipe to Try
Have a workout meal: Vegan Cherry Oatmeal Bowl!
Sometimes, I time my workouts so I eat a meal, not a snack, right before. Lately, I've been doing mid-morning personal training sessions, so this oatmeal bowl powers me through those workouts.
Be sure to follow up your gym time with a delicious recovery snack, too!
This blog post was updated in May 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
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