It’s easy to neglect that pre-workout snack (heck, we barely have time to get to the studio!) and we’ll often wait til dinner to eat after an afternoon sweat session. But how well we nourish our bodies pre and post workout can play a major role in how effective our workouts are overall.
Wellness devotee and regular Free People contributor,
I’ve found that when it comes to fitness, in all aspects, variety is key to staying motivated, from the routines I follow, to the clothes that protect me, to the foods that fuel me. My routine tends to change pretty dramatically from season to season, with workouts varying between running outdoors when the weather is warm, to sporadic bouts of yoga to get me through the stress of the holiday season, to my current cold-weather routine of HIIT sessions in my at-home gym (i.e. the space between my kitchen table and the kitchen cabinets, where there’s enough room to jump rope without causing damage to my apartment or cat), and with every shift comes a new opportunity to nourish my body and build the muscles I work so hard to gain. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s just as important to feed your body after a workout as it is to fuel it before, even if you’re trying to lose weight. Today I’m sharing some tips for choosing the right foods to eat before and after a workout, along with a recipe for each.
Pre-workout: 60-90 minutes before Think of your pre-workout snack as fuel for the fire — you want the coals to be stoked and the flame burning brightly. A small meal or snack should be consumed 60-90 minutes before you hit the gym or pavement, enough time for your body to digest and begin converting it to energy. Shoot for a mix of complex and simple carbs, which give a boost of energy while also burning slowly throughout your routine. Avoid added sugar, which can spike your insulin levels and burn you out too quickly. Even if you work out first thing in the morning, it’s important to keep your body going strong and feeling energized. Try having 1/2 a banana before your workout and then be sure to grab breakfast afterwards. Here are a few favorite ideas:
1/2 banana + 1 tbsp nut butter
1/4 cup full fat plain greek yogurt + fresh fruit or nuts
1/4 avocado mashed on 1 piece sprouted grain toast
Handful of raw almonds or other nuts + 1/2 an apple
If you’re like me and head to the gym after dark, stash some homemade energy bites or a homemade Paleo“n’ola” bar in your lunch bag to eat in the late afternoon. Filled with healthy fats, carbs and antioxidants, the recipe below is my latest obsession. To keep you fueled throughout the week, whip up a batch of these grain-free bars (with a grain-y option, too), which contain dried fruit for energy and nuts and seeds to balance blood sugar levels.
Pre-Workout: Grain-Free N’ola Bars
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup nut or seed butter (peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower…)
1/2 cup coconut butter
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 – 3/4 cup raisins or other dried fruit
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp ground flax
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
Notes: Sub rolled oats (the not quick-cooking kind) for all or some of the shredded coconut if you please; if you don’t have coconut butter, you can use 1 full cup nut or seed butter or play with the ratio of coconut oil; I feel these are sweet enough as is, but if you prefer sweeter, add 2 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup.
Combine all ingredients in the food processor and run until completely combined and mixture sticks together when pinched. Line your pan with parchment paper and press the mix firmly into the bottom of the lined pan in an even layer. Pop the pan in the freezer for about 30 minutes to harden. Once set, remove the parchment from the pan with the n’ola slab intact. Use a sharp knife to cut into bars or squares. Keep frozen or refrigerated until ready to eat, or toss a few in a sandwich bag to take with you.
You can also make these into bites by rolling the finished mix between your palms to create balls.
Post-workout: 15 to 30 minutes after leaving the gym Your post-workout meal or snack is all about repairing and recovering from the actions you’ve just performed. To get the most benefit, aim to have a small meal or snack 15 to 30 minutes after leaving the gym. Even if you’re planning on eating dinner within a couple of hours, it’s a good idea to have a small snack to curb cravings (try a fresh date with almond butter in this situation) and keep your metabolism going. Smoothies are a great choice for both your pre- and post-workout meal as they’re easy to digest and highly portable and you can fit a lot of nutrition in just an 8oz glass. The recipe below contains bananas, which contain potassium to rebuild levels lost while you sweat and aid in muscle recovery; tart cherry juice, which eases joint pain and can even help you sleep more soundly; hemp seeds, for muscle-building protein; and bee pollen, to increase endurance and aid in recovery.
Post-Workout: Raw Chocolate-Cherry Smoothie
1/2 cup 100% tart cherry juice (no sugar added)
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk or coconut water
1/2 frozen banana
Handful baby spinach
2 tbsp raw cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp hulled hemp seed or protein powder
Extra hulled hemp seed
Optional: Raw honey, to taste
Combine all ingredients except the bee pollen and extra hemp seed in a blender and blend until smooth. Add honey if desired. Top with a sprinkle of bee pollen and hemp seed and enjoy!