Sports Nutrition: What to Eat Before and After a Workout – 80 Twenty Nutrition

Sports Nutrition: What to Eat Before and After a Workout

sports nutrition media dietitian food expert Christy Brissette nutritionist 80 Twenty Nutrition
Photo credit: Carlos Newsome via Flickr

Wondering what sports nutrition says on what to eat before and after a workout?

It’s a common question I get from clients and it’s an important one… sports nutrition can impact the results you get from all the hard work you put in at the gym or outside.

Here’s what you need to know to help you fuel up for optimum performance and recover after a workout. I recently shared this with Carmen Chai for Global News in her article, Fuel Your Body: Your Guide to What to Eat Before and After a Workout.

Why sports nutrition is important: why should I fuel up before a workout?

Think of what you eat before a workout as the fuel for exercise. Getting the right sports nutrition before a workout will help you push yourself harder and perform your best. Eating before exercising can help you get more out of your workout.

Getting the timing right is important, because being hungry or having food in your stomach can both make it difficult to exercise.

Research suggests that having a light snack before a morning workout can help  you work harder, burning more total calories and more fat than if you didn’t eat anything.

Pre workout snack meal sports nutrition best media dietitian Christy Brissette 80 Twenty Nutrition peanut butter banana toast
Photo credit: Nicholas Erwin via Flickr


What should I eat before I exercise?

For most people, it works well to have a meal 3-4 hours before exercising or a snack 1-2 hours before exercising. Experiment to find the timing and amount that works best for you.

The meal or snack you eat before exercising should be high in carbohydrates from grain products, fruits and vegetables, and/or milk products, contain a moderate amount of protein and be low in fat and fibre. The carbohydrates provide energy to fuel your workout. Fat and fibre should be low in this meal because they slow down the digestion of food and can lead to an upset stomach during exercise.

What to eat post workout best dietitian nutritionist sports nutrition Christy Brissette 80 Twenty Nutrition
Photo credit: Caden Crawford via Flickr.


Examples of what to eat before a workout: 

  • Yogurt and fruit
  • A bowl of cereal with skim milk or milk alternative
  • Toast with peanut butter
  • Oatmeal with raisins and walnuts
  • A poached or scrambled egg with tomato on whole grain toast

Why is it important to refuel after a workout?

What you eat after a workout will determine how you recover from your workout and will determine whether you will build muscle.

After exercise, your sports nutrition goals are to get enough fluid, electrolytes, and energy to recover quickly, replace losses and restock the glycogen (chains of glucose) stored in your muscle. Drink plenty of water to replace fluids lost through sweat.

Should I have a sports drink or just water during and after a workout?

Great question. Post-workout hydration can be confusing. Find out whether you need a sports drink and find out how to make your own with my Sports Drink recipe post.

What should I eat after a workout? 

You need protein after exercise to build and repair your muscles. Aim to have 15-25 grams of protein within 1 hour of exercise.

It’s important to have carbohydrates with your protein because digestion and absorption of carbohydrates causes your body to produce insulin, a hormone that also stimulates the muscle to absorb amino acids.  Also be sure to get plenty of fluids to replace what you lost via sweat.

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What to eat post-workout: 

  • Smoothie (made with skim or 1% milk or a milk alterative, a banana, berries and Greek yogurt or protein powder)
  • Sandwich on whole grain bread with your choice of roasted chicken or turkey, tuna, peanut butter or hummus
  • Burrito with chicken, black beans, brown rice, avocado, lettuce and salsa in a whole grain wrap
  • Soup, stews or chili (made with chicken, fish or lentils, vegetables and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa or whole wheat pasta)
  • Omelet with mushrooms, peppers and whole grain toast
  • A baked potato or sweet potato stuffed with cottage cheese and broccoli
Smoothies and protein shakes made with whole foods - 80 Twenty Nutrition - Dietitian Christy Brissette
(Photo credit: Topsynet via Flickr).


What are your fave pre and post-workout snacks and meals? Share in the comments below!

XO Christy

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