“Post-workout nutrition is basically the most important meal of your day.” —Holly Rilinger, Nike master trainer
Once you *finally* find the motivation to get your fitness on, you want to get the most bang for your workout buck. The last thing you want is invest all that time and effort into working out (and let’s be honest, money on those sexy fitness fashions), just to find that you’re not getting the results you hoped for. (Check out Holly’s tips to avoid the dreaded workout plateau.)
That’s why, along with finding a exercise routine you can stick with, it’s crucial to take a good hard look at what you’re putting in your mouth. Eating the wrong foods may not only cause weight gain, but it can also significantly affect your fitness progress.
“Fuel is so important when it comes to working out,” says Holly Rilinger, Nike master trainer. “If you don’t have the right fuel, you’re not going to perform, and if you don’t eat correctly after a workout, you’re missing all the benefits of that workout in general.”
What to Eat Before a Workout
Two of the most important nutrients to include in a pre-workout meal are protein and carbohydrates, says Rilinger. “When I say ‘carbs,’ I’m not talking about cookies and pasta. I’m talking about whole grains, fruits, and vegetables,” she says. Learn more about the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates give you the energy to make it through your workout, and protein will fill you up and keep you from getting hungry during your workout, says Rilinger.
Some great pre-workout meal options include:
- Apples with nut butter, like peanut butter or almond butter
- A banana
- Oatmeal with berries and fruit
- Greek yogurt with fruit
Just want a quick snack before you sweat? Here are high-protein snack ideas to fuel your workout.
What to Eat After a Workout
“Post-workout nutrition is super important. It’s basically the most important meal of your day,” says Rilinger.
When you exercise, your muscles use their glycogen stores for fuel, which depletes them. The proteins in your muscles also get broken down and damaged (don’t worry, it’s a normal, healthy part of building muscle). “We basically break the protein out of the body,” says Rilinger.
After your workout, your body rebuilds its glycogen stores and repairs and regrows those muscle proteins. That’s how you build muscle slowly over time.
Eating the right nutrients—i.e., protein and carbohydrates—soon after you exercise can help speed up this process. “We like to call the hour after you work out ‘the magic hour,’” says Rilinger. “It’s ideal to try and get these foods in directly after your workout.”
Here are some examples of great post-workout meals with protein-packed foods:
- An omelet with vegetables
- Salmon with vegetables
- Cottage cheese with berries
And don’t forget to stay hydrated: “A good rule of thumb is to drink water before, during, and after your workout,” says Rilinger.
Coach, trainer, and 10-year veteran of the fitness world, Holly Rilinger is known as one of the most inspiring motivational trainers in the game.
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What are the best foods to eat before and
after a workout?
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So fuel is so
important when it comes to working out.
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If you don't have the right fuel,
you're not gonna perform.
00:00:15,916 --> 00:00:18,150
And if you don't eat
correctly after a workout,
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then you're sort of missing all
the benefits of that workout in general.
00:00:21,541 --> 00:00:25,501
So pre-workout, first of all, not every
workout's the same, and not every person
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is the same, so it's really important
to find your own specific formula.
00:00:28,976 --> 00:00:32,813
Two of the most important nutrients,
pre-workout, is going to be protein and
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And don't get me wrong, when I say carbs,
I'm not talking about cookies and pasta.
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I'm talking about whole grains, fruits,
and really important vegetables, so
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carbs is fuel.
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Carbs is gonna give you the energy
to make it through your workout, and
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protein is going to eliminate
any hunger during the workout.
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So some good examples of pre-workout
meals would be, you could do apples,
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with some kind of nut butter like
peanut butter or almond butter.
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A banana is always a really simple,
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You can do oatmeal with berries and
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also Greek yogurt is a great
option with fruit as well.
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it is really important to stay hydrated.
00:01:06,815 --> 00:01:10,407
So good rule of thumb is just to
drink water before, during, and
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after the workout.
00:01:11,545 --> 00:01:13,848
Post-workout nutrition is super important,
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it's basically the most
important meal of your day.
00:01:16,444 --> 00:01:20,197
So the reason this is so important is
because when we work out, we break muscle
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fiber down, so we basically break
the protein down in the body.
00:01:23,336 --> 00:01:27,909
So we need to replace it, so
we can get stronger, leaner and healthier.
00:01:27,909 --> 00:01:32,844
Some great examples of post-workout meals
would be an omelet with vegetables,
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salmon with vegetables, or
even cottage cheese with berries.
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So we like to call the hour after
you work out the magic hour, so
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it's ideal to try and get these foods
in directly after you work out.
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International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. Norman, OK: Department of Health and Exercise Science, University of Oklahoma, 2008. (Accessed on August 7, 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18834505)
What To Eat Before You Go To The Gym. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (Accessed on August 7, 2018 at https://health.gov/news/blog-bayw/2014/03/what-to-eat-before-you-go-to-the-gym)
Free amino acid pool and muscle protein balance after resistance exercise. Jyväskylä, Finland: Neuromuscular Research Center, Department of Biology of Physical Activity, University of Jyväskylä, 2003. (Accessed on August 7, 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12750588)