Health Advocate Blog

Eating for exercise

Keeping your body fueled before and after a workout is a vital part of your exercise routine. Understanding what you should eat before and after exercise to aid in energy and recovery is crucial. Eating appropriately timed snacks before and after exercise can help you maximize the benefits of exercise through increased stamina, muscle development, burning fat and quicker recovery. Here are some pre- and post-workout snack ideas that can kick-start your recovery and help you reach your goals!

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: Pre-workout snacks should be high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat. Examples of good 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 good 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
  • 2 tablespoons of hummus and a whole wheat pita

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. 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.

It can be helpful to plan and prep your snacks and beverages ahead of time. This way you’ll have exactly what you need to fuel and refuel, when you need it!