Fuel Up for Your Next Workout
Have you found yourself standing in the kitchen geared up for a workout while staring blankly into your pantry in search of the right food to fuel you? In that moment, knowing what to eat before exercising and in what quantity can seem like a great mystery.
While foods don't necessarily raise metabolism, they do supply us with the energy we need to exercise—the true metabolism booster. Exercising on an empty tank can deprive you of the endurance you need for a really good workout. Lest we spend too long selecting our fuel and eat into (pun fully intended) our workout time, Virtua registered dietitian Bryony Crane explains that a carbohydrate-rich snack or meal is an excellent go-to when you want to energize your body before a big physical event, practice or workout.
“Carbs help prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), settle the stomach, fuel your muscles and ease your mind with the knowledge that your body is fueled,” says Crane, recommending healthy, low-fat carbs, such as fruit, crackers, a handful of pretzels, a bagel, or an energy bar. Rather than “carbo loading” though, try packing your snack with a small amount of protein and a little fat. Think tasty, easy-to-whip-up mini meals such as graham crackers with peanut butter, a glass of low-fat chocolate milk, or a smoothie made with yogurt and fruit.
What you eat before—and after—a workout can be as important as when you eat it. Time your snack based on the intensity of your next workout, allowing for more digestion time before more intense exercising, such as a long run. If you’ve just eaten a full meal, you’ll want to wait two to four hours before hitting the gym. Post-workout, replace the glycogen and fluid you’ve burned off by drinking water or a sports drink and eating something with protein and carbs. Go for nuts and dried fruit or cheese and crackers if you’re not yet ready for a full meal.
Fueling and refueling your body does not need to be a tasteless task, and can actually be a way to incentivize exercising. For Stephanie S., after a workout is a great time to reward herself with something tasty and healthy. “Refuel foods are usually something healthy like a salad with tuna or protein,” says Stephanie.”I like smoothies or a big salad with lots of fun colorful veggies after. And always lots of water before and after.”