If you grab the first thing you can find on your way out the door, or you opt for nothing at all, it may be time to re-evaluate your pre-workout food choices. And while you're doing that, you might as well look at what you're eating after your workout, too.
Why is it important to eat before a workout?
Eating before you work out helps prevent low blood sugar levels, which can leave you feeling lightheaded, shaky and sometimes even nauseous. What's more, fueling your body before exercise ensures that you start your training session energised, which improves the intensity of your workout and enables you to train for longer.
Food for thought: Ever heard the one about exercising on an empty stomach? And how it supposedly increases weight loss? The truth is that when you exercise without eating first, it's your muscle, not your flab, that is broken down.
What should you eat before you work out?
While there's no perfect pre-workout meal, it's important to focus on low fat, low fibre foods that contain moderate carbs and protein. In addition, it advises that you only eat foods you know your body can tolerate well.
If you're an early riser and you're planning a quick walk or similar, eating is not essential – a glass of your favourite juice will do. If, on the other hand, you're intending to push yourself a little harder – think training run or advanced yoga class – a pre-workout snack is a good idea. Just make sure you give your body at least 20 minutes to digest it – two hours if you're eating a full breakfast.
Good early morning snack ideas include: a slice of wholewheat toast with nut butter; a banana; an apple or a fruit smoothie. And if you really can't stomach the idea of eating even a small snack early in the morning, have a bedtime snack to ensure that your body is fueled for your morning workout.
If you prefer to exercise in the afternoon or evening, and it's been several hours since your last meal, grab a snack before you hit the gym. Once again, give your body at least 20 minutes to digest it.
What you should eat after your workout?
Protein is always a good idea as it plays an important role in muscle recovery. That said, you don't need to eat a 400g sirloin or a stack of crispy bacon – 10–20 grams of protein is sufficient.
Good post-workout food choices include: fruit and yoghurt; a peanut butter or nut butter sandwich; a boiled egg on toast.
What about fluids?
It's important to stay hydrated when you're working out. As a rule of thumb, try to drink water throughout the day, rather than cram large amounts in before and during your workout.