Having a nutritious snack both before and after exercise is a critical component of an effective workout routine. Exercise depletes the body of glycogen stores. Glycogen is the usable form of carbohydrates required to fuel the body. Without this important fuel, you may experience fatigue, sluggishness and muscle soreness during and after exercise. Eating appropriately timed snacks can help you maximize the benefits of exercise through muscle development, burning fat and quicker recovery.
Snack Size and Timing Matter
Pre-workout: Keep snack size, and when you plan to eat it, in mind when eating before exercising. The farther away from your exercise time you eat, the larger the snack you’ll need. Ideally, you should eat your snack one hour prior to exercising.
Post-workout: Eat a healthy snack within 30 minutes of completing exercise.
Healthy Snack Options
Pre-workout: In order to have an effective workout, it’s best to eat a snack beforehand that is high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat. Examples of pre-workout snacks include:
- An apple and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- ½ cup of whole grain cereal, ¼ cup of non-fat yogurt and ½ cup of fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, or banana
- Crackers with at least 2 grams of fiber per serving, with 2 ounces of low fat cheese and ½ cup of fruit
- ¼ cup of dried fruit
- A slice of toast and a hard-boiled egg
- A fruit and yogurt smoothie
- ½ cup of oatmeal with ½ cup of fresh fruit
Post-workout: The snack you eat after exercising should be high in protein, moderate in carbohydrates, and low in fat. Examples of post-workout snacks include:
- 8 to 16 ounces of chocolate milk
- Tuna on whole wheat bread or crackers
- Non-fat Greek yogurt and ½ cup of fruit
- A banana and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- An apple and a stick of low-fat string cheese
- 2 rice cakes with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and a tablespoon of jelly
- 2-3 eggs scrambled with a cup of spinach and ½ of a bell pepper
Don’t Forget to Stay Hydrated
Be sure to stay properly hydrated during your workout routine. You need to drink water to replace fluids expelled from physical activity due to increased body temperatures. Your muscles can become weak and tear if your water intake is insufficient for the type of exercise you’re performing. Consequently, drinking enough water can help reduce muscle soreness. The American College of Sports Medicine offers the following recommendations for hydration before, during and after exercise:
Pre-workout: Drink 2 to 3 cups of water within 4 hours of your exercise start time. Drink an additional 1 to 1 ½ cups of water 10 to 15 minutes prior to your workout.
During your workout: If you exercise for less than 60 minutes, drink ½ cup to 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. Exercising for longer than 60 minutes requires additional fluids as a result of electrolyte loss. If your exercise exceeds 60 minutes, drink ½ cup to 1 cup of a sports drink containing electrolytes every 15 to 20 minutes.
Post-workout: Drink 2 to 3 cups of water within two hours of completing your workout.
Looking for additional snack options and fitness tips? If you are a Health Advocate member with access to our Wellness Coaching program, connect with a Wellness Coach for further ideas to get fit and eat healthy!