Press "Enter" to skip to content

Friday’s Flavor: The best pre and post-exercise foods

Do you want to be in your best shape possible?  Well, here is a little secret– losing weight is more what you eat than how you workout.  However, if you want to lose weight the healthy way, a balance of diet and exercise is the way to go.
According to Healthy People 2010, the physical activity recommendations are 2.5 to 5 hours of activity a week.  By fueling and refueling your body before and after a workout, you can maintain an energetic edge that will help you have the energy to exercise and participate in your other activities.
Many people trying to lose weight benefit from eating more, rather than less, when training hard. 
Susan Kundrat, MS, RD, CSSD, wrote a Sports Nutrition Playbook for Optimal Fuel for the Performance Edge.  She says many people benefit from eating five times a day because it increases energy levels, promotes muscle growth and lowers body fat percentage.  There are exceptions due to the intensity and amount of time you put into your workout.
If Jenny Cardio heads to the Markin Family Student Recreation Center after class at 2 p.m. and does 30 minutes on the elliptical, the calories she burns will depend on many factors, especially her intensity. 
She ate lunch at 11 a.m. before class so she does not need a pre-exercise meal (her lunch was her pre-exercise meal–which should be three to four hours before exercise).  If Jenny had not eaten lunch, a pre-exercise snack (one to two hours before exercise) is necessary for adequate fuel to get her through a workout. 
A pre-exercise snack should be easy to digest and consist of more carbohydrates than protein. The best carbohydrates before a workout are starchy, grainy foods like bread, pasta or rice. Fruit and vegetables are great carbohydrates as well. 
Protein comes from a lot of meat products such as chicken, turkey, red meat and fish.  It is found in many other foods such as eggs, beans, cheese, milk, peanut butter and whole grains. After a workout, Jenny benefits from eating within 45 minutes – this is called a post-exercise snack.
If Johnny Benchpress heads to The Markin Center at 5 p.m. and lifts free weights for an hour and a half he must make sure he gets enough energy throughout his day in order to lift to his highest capacity.  This means he will need to eat more than Jenny Cardio because his muscles will be exerting more energy. 
He should have a hearty breakfast, lunch and a pre-exercise snack before he starts his lift.  After his lift he can either eat dinner or have a post-exercise snack.  Eating after a workout helps repair torn muscles and restore energy in our bodies.  
Pre-exercise choices: 
Bagel with peanut butter
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Oatmeal with nuts and berries
Beefy jerky and applesauce or a fruit cup
Pasta, rice or lean meats (chicken, turkey, lean red meat, fish, etc.)
Eggs, beans, low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese
Fruit, nuts, cereal, soy products
Post-exercise choices:
Low-fat chocolate milk
Bagel or sandwich with peanut butter
Apple or banana with peanut butter
Trail mix, cereal
Protein shakes (1 scoop protein mix, frozen fruit, low-fat milk and yogurt, or water)
Smoothie (options: fruit, peanut butter, low-fat milk and yogurt, water, juice, etc.)
Pasta, rice, lean meats (chicken, turkey, lean red meat, fish, etc.)
Helpful Tips:
Hydrate before and during workouts
The closer you are to a workout, rely more on liquids and small snacks.
If you are a heavy sweater, it may mean you need more electrolytes.  In other words, you need more sodium and potassium in your diet.  Just do not go crazy with the salt and increase potassium foods such as cantaloupe, bananas, oranges, strawberries, avocado, potatoes, spinach, broccoli, tuna, bell peppers or tomatoes.