Pre- and Post-Exercise Nutrition You Should Follow
March 12, 2019
An athlete can spend hours each week training, utilize injury prevention techniques like massages and stretching, and even make sure to get enough sleep. As important as each of those components are, nutrition is the link that can positively influence all of those areas.
Without proper nutrition you can’t maximize training; when not properly hydrated, you are more susceptible to injury, and low quality food choices and certain food compounds can lead to poor quality sleep. Fueling and recovery are important aspects of sports nutrition, and when planning pre-workout fuel, it is important to choose foods based on how much time you have to digest before starting exercise. Here are the three fueling windows to consider:
3 PRE-Exercise Fueling Windows
- Less than 1 hour before exercise: this needs to be very easy to digest carbohydrates with little to no fat and protein. A piece of fruit, small smoothie made with fruit and a small amount of yogurt or milk, a piece of toast with honey or smashed berries are good examples when you have less than an hour between eating and starting exercise.
- 1-2 hours before exercise: this fuel also needs to be majority carb, but since you have more time to digest, you can add a small amount of protein or fat. A slice of toast with nut butter, Greek yogurt with fruit, crackers with hummus or guacamole would all work in this timing scenario.
- 3 hours before exercise: When you are eating three hours before starting exercise, this fuel should be more like a meal with larger volumes of food, but still focus mostly on carb. This fueling window is ideal on race days! A bowl of oatmeal with fruit and nuts or nut butter, toast with nut butter and a banana sliced on top, yogurt with fruit and low fat granola are good options here.
Once you have finished your training, it is important to use nutrition to aid in recovery. Here are three tips to getting your recovery nutrition right:
3 Post-WORKOUT Nutrition TIPS
- You should consume food within 45 minutes of completing exercise. The sooner, the better, so if you are able to have something within minutes of finishing your exercise, that would be best-case scenario!
- Your recovery nutrition should include carb AND protein. The carbohydrate will help replace energy that was used during training so your glycogen (storage form of carb) doesn’t become depleted, and protein will help provide building blocks for muscle repair and synthesis. If you are a morning exerciser, your breakfast meal (something like eggs, toast, and fruit) would work great. Or, if you train later in the day, a dinner of fish, rice, and veggies would be a great recovery meal. If you aren’t able to have a proper meal within 45 minutes of finishing your exercise, have a protein snack, like a bar or shake, immediately post training to hold you over until a meal.
- Hydration post exercise is especially important. You should be replacing all fluid lost during exercise via sweat. Fluid can be in the form of water, electrolyte drink, or even a shake that contains carb and protein. If you are noticing muscle cramps, salt left on your skin or clothes, or significant weight loss from pre to post exercise, these are all signs of dehydration. Avoid these symptoms by consuming adequate fluid before, during, and after all exercise. For every pound of weigh lost during exercise, replenish with 16oz of fluid.
Use nutrition to your advantage and start practicing fueling and recovery strategies that work within your lifestyle and can help you get more out of each training session!
Kelsey Hampton, MS, RDN, LD, CSSD, is a Registered Dietician and has a specialty in sports nutrition. She works at Melissa Rifkin Nutrition.