No matter how you like to exercise, you need food to fuel your workouts. Your body needs nutrients both before and after to perform at its best. Since you may not always have time for a meal, have these power snacks ready to go.
Before Exercise: Energize!
The key to a successful workout is giving your body fuel—exercising on an empty stomach leads to a less beneficial workout (there’s no gas in the tank). Since you don’t want to feel weighed down by a heavy meal—a light snack is all you need.
How many calories you need to eat will vary from person to person but 100-150 is a good place to start (a serious athlete or very active man will need more). Aim to have the snack 1 to 2 hours before a workout and choose foods that are high in energy-producing carbohydrates. If your snack is too high in protein or fat, you won’t digest it in time and you risk cramping and burping through your workout.
Our top picks: fresh fruit, non fat yogurt, dry cereal, pretzels, low fat granola bars
After Exercise: Recover
Post exercise your body craves more healthy carbs along with protein to replenish energy stores and repair tired muscles. Eating a healthy snack right after is the best way to prepare for your next workout. Ideally, choose foods with a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein (examples below) and get that snack within 30 to 60 minutes post workout when muscle cells are most sensitive.
Our top picks: smoothies, trail mix, chocolate milk, cottage cheese and fruit, cereal with milk, 1/2 a turkey sandwich, apple with peanut butter
In a pinch, a protein bar can come in handy, but some brands are better than others. Use our tips for finding the right one.
One of the leading causes of fatigue during exercise is dehydration – use our tips to keep your fluid intake in check.
For more ideas, download my handout — Top 10 Snacks For Athletes
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »