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Eating the right foods can be a challenge, especially when it comes to fueling your body for exercise. You know your body needs certain foods for optimal energy and recovery, but what exactly are those foods? Also, when is the best time to eat — before or after your workout? This article will examine this and more.

Your body will need fuel to cope with the demands of exercise. If you don’t provide your body with the proper nutrients, it’s not going to perform as well and you may even risk becoming light headed or dizzy. Eating before a workout is crucial because it ensures that adequate glycogen stores are available for the workout (glycogen is the source of energy most often used for exercise). Ideally, foods high in carbohydrates are best. But don’t overload on the pasta and bread. Keep the food light in both portion size and substance.

Pre-Workout Food Suggestions:
• Rye Crackers with natural peanut butter
• Yogurt mixed with berries
• Half a multi grain bagel with cottage cheese or sugar free jam
• Piece of fruit with a piece of Swiss cheese

TIP: Ideally, you should eat 1-2 hours before your workout.

Eating directly after your workout is also critical. At this point, you’ve exhausted your muscles to the max and wiped your system. Eating after a workout will help the body restore lost glycogen stores and also begin the vital process of muscle repair. The best foods are a combination of protein (for muscle repair) and carbohydrate (for restoration of energy). Whatever meal you have later should contain the same nutrients, but consuming something directly after a workout is the first priority.

Post-Workout Food Suggestions:
• Protein Shakes (scoop of protein powder mixed with berries, milk and/or water and ice)
• Plain yogurt mixed with a scoop of chocolate protein powder
• Protein Bar (between 150 and 200 calories)
• Half a sandwich with lean deli meat on multi-grain bread
• A glass of milk – 1% white or chocolate

TIP: Ideally, you should consume something 15-20 minutes after exercise

Foods to Avoid
It’s tempting after a vigorous workout to grab a sports drink. But beware: these drinks are simply a sugar drink in disguise. Always remember that water is the purest form of hydration. And hydration is critical — you should be drinking before, during and after your workout.

Another mistake is eating junk food after a workout. Thinking they can’t eat until their next meal, many people reach for junk foods to ‘tide them over’. To prevent this craving, have healthy snacks readily available. Keep them in your gym bag or in your glove compartment. Remember: one of the easiest ways to eat sensibly is to be prepared!

Nutrition and fitness will always be directly linked. So get the results you want and have more energy by eating the best foods possible — before and after your workout.

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