Yes, You Can Eat Your Way to a Better Workout

What you eat before and after you exercise is almost as important as the workout itself. Food is your fuel—it gives you the energy necessary to be active and focused, and it also provides the nutrients required to build muscle and bone strength, as well as help the body recover post workout.

This Monday, in honor of Nutrition Month, plan some meals around your workouts.

 

What to Eat Before a Workout:

Carbohydrates help prepare the body for exercise, even if it’s something low-impact or low-intensity such as a Monday Mile. Eat foods that have the right nutrient balance to curb hunger and battle fatigue, and avoid foods that might lead to an upset stomach.

Bananas

A great source of quick energy, bananas are 90% carbohydrates. Keep one in your backpack or bag, and you’ll never be without pre-workout fuel. For a pre-workout breakfast, try adding them to this date and banana smoothie.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a breakfast staple that’s full of fiber, which makes it a great food to eat before exercising. Because it’s a complex carbohydrate, oats release their energy gradually, making it an appropriate choice for longer-length workouts. Oats are also a good source of vitamin B, which helps convert carbohydrates into energy. For a quick recipe idea, make this overnight apple peanut butter oatmeal.

Whole Grain Bread

Another good source of fiber that’s easy on the stomach, whole grain bread provides sustained energy throughout the workout. If you’re looking for a complete pre-workout meal, try adding a spread of hummus or a sliced hard-boiled egg for extra protein.

 

What to Eat After a Workout:

After a workout, your body needs to heal and rebuild—but this is a good thing! Eating the right nutrients after exercise can help your body speed up this process. The right combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fats can help increase muscle growth, decrease muscle protein breakdown, and enhance recovery. Foods high in protein allow the body to build new muscle tissue, while carbohydrate-rich foods are better for refueling after a run or another endurance exercise.

Beans

Beans are inexpensive, nutritious, and an excellent source of protein. Lean proteins, like beans, provide all the muscle-recovery benefits of protein, without the saturated fat of red meats like beef or pork. Recreate the flavor of meatballs using beans with this yummy lentil, mushroom walnut “meatball.”

Quinoa

Although technically a seed, quinoa provides the perfect balance of carbohydrates and proteins. Quinoa is easy to prepare (it’s cooked just like rice), and you can make a big batch to store in the refrigerator for when you need a quick post-workout bite, or you can form it into delicious corn and quinoa mini burgers.

Greek Yogurt

The perfect post-workout breakfast, Greek yogurt is loaded with protein and calcium, which helps the muscle repair and also contributes to bone strength. If the slightly tangy taste of Greek yogurt isn’t your favorite, throw it in a blender with some milk or plant-based milk, fruit, and leafy greens for a quick nutritious meal.