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Wondering what and when to eat around a workout? Here’s how to handle pre- and post-exercise eating to get the most from your sweat sessions.
Before Your Workout: About an hour before your run, CrossFit workout, or spin class, eat a moderate amount of complex carbs with a little protein. Different foods stay in your stomach for varying amounts of time: Carbs leave quickest, then protein, and lastly fat.
Expert Advice: “Don’t have a lot of fat before you exercise,” says Lisa Ellis, a registered dietitian and nutrition therapist in White Plains. “It can slow down the digestive process. The blood flow to the stomach will compete with the blood flow needed by the working muscles, resulting in a slower digestive process. Food may sit in the stomach longer, and this can cause nausea,” she says.
What to Eat: A piece of sprouted grain bread with almond butter before exercise is a good option.
After Your Workout: Drink a lot of water to replace any lost fluids from your sweat sesh, and stay away from those electrolyte-replacement drinks unless you did a seriously long run of 10 miles or more. When it comes time to schedule meals, aim to eat within one hour of your workout (within 30 minutes is even better), focusing on protein to repair your muscle damage and fiber-rich carbohydrates to replace your glycogen stores.
Expert Advice: “Otherwise, you’ll have no energy and be exhausted,” Ellis says. A bit of fat is important, too, because it helps absorb your nutrients.
What to Eat: After a morning workout, try a breakfast of quinoa, nuts, berries, and full-fat Greek yogurt. In the evening, eat a dinner of whole-grain pasta with broccoli rabe, sausage, and parmesan.