Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition Tips

| 3 min read

Man making a workout smoothie
What do lifting weights, squats and cardio all have in common?
They’re all excellent exercises that can help you be healthier and stronger and they all burn calories and deplete your body of certain nutrients.
Replenishing your body of the nutrients and water you lose when you work out is an important part of your fitness regimen. Proper nutrition before and after a workout means you won’t be sore for weeks, and you get the full benefit of every workout for a stronger and healthier body. If weight loss is your end goal, it’s important to consider the timing of regular meals and snacks rather than increasing your daily caloric intake for workouts.
Pre-workout snacks or meals should be consumed about 30 minutes to three hours before your workout. A good snack should consist mostly of carbohydrates, as carbs provide you with energy, speed, stamina and concentration to ensure you have a good sweat session. Aim for easily digestible foods to avoid a sluggish feeling that will only make you want to cut your workout short. Examples of quick and easy pre-workout snacks are:
  • One banana or piece of fruit
  • Greek Yogurt with fresh berries
A post-workout snack or meal should be focused on protein to repair the muscle tissue you broke down during the workout and carbs to promote a quick recovery. This post-workout food should be consumed within an hour of finishing at the gym. Enjoying fruits and vegetables post workout will help rehydrate you and replenish lost electrolytes. Here are some other examples of protein-packed post-workout snacks and meals:
You lose a lot of micronutrients in your sweat. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day and during your workout. Taking small sips every so often will help avoid bloating while keeping you hydrated. Try to drink at least 16 ounces of water within 30 minutes of leaving the gym to replace all the liquid you sweat out.
Water is the best choice for most athletes, but sports drinks containing electrolytes and carbohydrates have been proven beneficial to athletes performing high-intensity workouts lasting more than an hour, especially in the summertime. Here are some of the most common nutrients lost during a workout and ways to get them back into your system:
  • Potassium is essential to muscle and nerve function and maintaining the body’s water and pH balances. Low levels of potassium can show up as cramps, cardiac issues, nausea and swelling in the hands and feet. Some foods that are high in potassium are bananas, oranges, leafy greens, broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers and coconut water.
  • Magnesium relays signals between the brain and body, improves memory and learning, helps maintain a healthy heartbeat and is involved with muscle contraction. Depression, weakness, high blood pressure and heart disease could be the effects of prolonged magnesium deficiencies. Some foods that have high levels of magnesium are pumpkin seeds, almonds, boiled spinach, cashews, peanuts, soy milk and black beans.
  • Sodium, like potassium, is important in the function of muscles and nerves, as well as balancing fluid levels. Those who exercise 30-60 minutes a day, five to seven days a week likely do not need to replenish sodium or other electrolytes. The dietary guidelines for sodium in the diet is likely enough to replace any sodium lost in the sweat, especially considering the average sodium intake of most Americans goes well beyond the recommended intake. Low sodium levels can lead to nausea, vomiting, difficulty concentrating, confusion, agitation and headaches. Foods that can help combat sodium loss following a workout are cottage cheese, vegetable juice, shrimp, pickles, canned beans, chicken broth, aged cheese, soy sauce and tomato sauce.
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