You know you need to eat right before and after your workout to maximize your results, but all the info out on there on carbs and protein can be confusing, so we talked to top dietitians and sports nutritionists to learn their favorite gym snacks. Whether you prefer to get your fitness on before the sun comes up or choose to exercise after a long day at the office, these nourishing fueling options will ensure that you remain on top of your game.
Pre-Workout: While sitting down for breakfast may be the last thing on your mind in wee a.m. hours, certain nutrients are essential to make the most of your early gym sesh. Eating a relatively small carbohydrate and protein snack 30 to 60 minutes before you hit the gym, such as a banana paired with a tablespoon of peanut butter, will keep your stomach from grumbling while you work up a sweat. Kristen Carlucci, R.D., nutrition expert for Pitney Bowes Inc., finds that this combination of slow-burning carbs, protein, and a little bit of healthy fat helps to keep energy high and blood sugar levels sustained throughout a workout, while the punch of potassium from the banana aids in preventing cramping.
Post-Workout: For a nutritious treat you can sip as you get ready to take on your day, whip up a smoothie made with plain nonfat yogurt, mango, pineapple, cinnamon, and a touch of toasted wheat germ. Not only does this beverage taste great, it also blends three important elements of refueling: fluids (provided by water-rich fruits), carbs (from the fruit and yogurt), and protein (in the yogurt and wheat germ). Emily Ann Miller, M.P.H., R.D., recommends this satisfying smoothie 30 to 60 minutes after an intense hour-long workout, as the fluids will help replenish lost sweat, and the carbs work to restore glycogen used during exercise. While the protein helps keep you full and is believed to possibly enhance muscle recovery, Miller says that carbs are key when it comes to replenishing glycogen stores, so aim for three to four times as many calories from carbs than from protein.
RELATED: Whatever type of exercise you prefer in the morning, check out the best breakfast for you to make the most of your sesh.
Pre-Workout: Who says cereal is only for breakfast? Consider chowing down on a heart-healthy combo of uncooked oatmeal, dry cereals (such as Grapenuts and shredded wheat), slivered almonds, chopped dates, and low-fat or almond milk 1 to 2 hours before your lunch fitness class, says Nancy Clark, R.D., who recommends this to her clients, including Olympic athletes and members of the Boston Red Sox.
Post-Workout: A grab-and-go trio of Greek yogurt, an orange, and a red bell pepper is not only convenient, these items are also packed with water to refresh and rehydrate. The Nutrition Twins®, registered dietitians and authors of the book The Secret to Skinny, say that the orange’s vitamin C is critical for preventing some of the oxidative damage from free radicals, while the red bell pepper is packed with antioxidants to help to repair the damage done to muscles and tissues during a strenuous workout, and the yogurt boasts energy-reviving carbs and muscle-building protein.
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Pre-Workout: For a carbohydrate-rich snack that fuels muscles and boosts energy levels, try a fruit or jam sandwich on 100% whole-wheat bread an hour before your workout, says personal trainer Ruth Frechman, R.D., author of The Food is My Friend Diet.
Post-Workout: Curb that famished feeling by snacking on a slice of millet bread along with 1/2 cup each cottage cheese and blueberries 30 minutes after your evening gym session. This snack favorite from Oxygen magazine cover model Tiffani Bachus, R.D., focuses on refueling quickly with fast-digesting carbs and protein.