"There can be much confusion around what to eat before vs. after a workout. It’s important to remember that the body is in very different states when preparing for a workout compared to recovering from a workout, so nutrition composition changes. While there can be some variation depending on the individual person, the time of day of the workout, and the length of the workout, there are some common truths and general recommendations that still apply." - Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, LDN
Carbohydrates are the star nutrients for exercising muscles before a workout. Carbohydrates offer the quickest energy for our muscles to use, since they are digested and absorbed quickly. What we don’t use immediately we store as glycogen, which is more efficiently released and utilized when we need it during exercise.
When Should I Eat Before a Workout?
The ideal time to fuel before a workout is 1-3 hours before. Most people need some time to allow for adequate digestion, as eating too close to a workout may cause some gastrointestinal discomfort. Digestion requires blood flow to the stomach, and when exercising, blood flow is diverted from the stomach to the exercising muscles. Therefore, if the body is using energy to digest food rather than fuel activity, performance may suffer.
What Should I Eat Before a Workout?
If you have more than 1-2 hours before a workout, you can include a more balanced meal, with some protein, but the focus should be mainly on carbohydrates. However, if you’re working out with less than an hour to spare, a simple snack combination will suffice. Toast or fruit with peanut butter, granola, cereal, energy bites, or oatmeal will provide sufficient carbohydrates. Choose foods that are low in fat and fiber to ensure optimal tolerance. Consuming fluids in the hours leading up to a workout can also help prevent dehydration.
After a workout is a time to replenish lost nutrients. While it’s not necessary to add extra post-workout fuel in for shorter workouts, it is recommended for workouts longer than 45 minutes to an hour. After a workout, it’s important to get a combination of protein and carbohydrates. The proteins help rebuild and repair the working muscles, while the carbohydrates help replenish glycogen stores to have on hand for future training sessions. Proper recovery meals can also help reduce soreness and inflammation.
When Should I Eat After a Workout?
While the old adage of eating within 30-60 minutes may not be as important as we once thought, it’s still a good practice to get a recovery snack or meal sooner rather than later. This allows the body to start the recovery process of repairing damaged muscle tissue, stimulating muscle protein synthesis and replenishing carbohydrate stores (1).
What Should I Eat After a Workout?
If you’re out and about after a workout, consider packing some protein and carbohydrate portable snack options to hold you over until you’re about to have your next meal. Some options include fruit and a hard-cooked egg, muffins, dried fruit and nut trail mix, a smoothie or shake, or half of a sandwich.
High-quality proteins, like Egglands Best eggs, are effective for the maintenance, repair, and synthesis of skeletal muscle proteins. Egg protein, along with whey, casein and soy protein, has been shown to help increase muscle synthesis (2).
A hard-cooked egg with toast is a great post-workout snack. For a post-workout meal, your muscles will require more food, preferably in a 3:1 to 4:1 ration of carbohydrates to protein. For example, 60 grams of carbohydrates to 15-20 grams of protein.
However, carbohydrates and protein don’t cover all of the essential post-workout needs for recovery.
Egglands Best eggs also have more than double the amount of DHA and omega-3 fatty acids compared to conventional eggs. Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, it may be prudent to include eggs in your normal diet and after exercise to help reduce soreness and inflammation related to exercise. Research indicates short-term DHA and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness while facilitating better training adaptations to exercise (3, 4).
Some options include It is also important to replace fluids and electrolytes (mainly sodium and potassium) lost during exercise.
To make the most of your workouts and recovery, your food choices matter.
- Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ. “Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12 April 2019. Accessed from https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-10-5
- Thomas, Travis D, Erdman, Kelly Anne, Burke, Louise M. “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 12 April 2019. Accessed from https://jandonline.org/article/S2212-2672(15)01802-X/fulltext
- Corder, K.E., Newsham, K.R., McDaniel, J.L., Ezekiel, U.R., & Weiss, E.P. “Effects of short-term docosahexaenoic acid supplementation on markers of inflammation after eccentric strength exercise in women.” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 1 May 2019. Accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3737804/.
- Jouris, K.B., McDaniel, J.L., & Weiss, E.P. “The effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on the inflammatory response to eccentric strength exercise”. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 1 May 2019. Accessed from https://www.uws.edu/omega-3-fatty-acid-supplementation-helpful-for-exercise/.