The foods you eat before and after you exercise will fuel your workout and maximize your efforts, recovery and results. The right fuel will keep your energy levels steady during exercise and decrease your recovery time and muscle soreness after a workout. You want to take in the right combination and balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates, plus vitamins, minerals and electrolytes to optimize your performance and energize your body. And don’t forget about hydration! Make sure you hydrate including drinking water before, during and after exercise to balance fluid losses.
Depending on the intensity of your workout, eating before prevents low blood sugar and fatigue so you can exercise harder. Fuel to recover is often choosing the right balance of quality protein, carbohydrates and fat to feed your muscles and prevent discomfort. I have a list of many fitness friendly foods including almonds, blueberries, cherries, dark chocolate, Greek yogurt, eggs, hemp seeds, salmon, turkey and the list goes on… For this Grow with Nutrition blog I’m featuring three of my favourites: bananas; chia seeds and good old fashion cow’s milk!
Bananas have been referred to as nature’s fitness food. They are loaded with digestible carbohydrates and are packed with potassium, which aids in maintaining nerve and muscle function. Plus they are easily portable.
According to a study published in 2012 conducted with male cyclists, eating a banana with water before, and during workouts (every 15 minutes of a 75km cycling time trial) provided them with stable blood sugar levels during the workout (1). Maintaining blood sugar levels improves fitness performance.
My Fitness Fuel Tip
If you workout in the morning and want a quick on the go fuel, eat a small banana with ½ cup of Greek yogurt. Wait about 30 minutes and then hit the workout hard. Your body will thank you for the quality carbohydrates, protein and potassium!
Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fibre, potassium, antioxidants and even plant protein, chia seeds (which I featured in my upcoming book The Need for Seeds) are an extra powerhouse for your fitness strategy. A study published in 2011 provided highly trained male athletes with a chia seed drink (50% Green Plus Omega 3 Chia seeds, 50% Gatorade) one hour before a run on a treadmill and before a 10km time-trial on a track (2). Performance was improved in the athletes consuming the chia seed beverage.
My Fitness Fuel Tip
Chia seeds are highly gelatinous (absorb up to 14 times their weight in water). Add one tablespoon of chia seeds to 250 ml of water and one teaspoon of honey (optional to sweeten). Let it sit for 15 minutes or until the seeds completely swell and absorb the liquid. Refreshing and hydrating omega-3, fibre and antioxidants providing anti-inflammatory properties post workout!
As kids, you might remember being told to drink your milk to be healthy and strong. Research has shown that drinking milk after exercising hydrates and improves muscle recovery time in both children and adults (3). And new research is suggesting that drinking cow’s milk post exercise might even help burn fat after a strenuous workout!
My Fitness Fuel Tip
A glass of low-fat chocolate milk can be an ideal fuel, and it’s also great for quenching thirst and satisfying a sweet tooth! Grab this easy post-workout snack with its mix of protein, carbohydrates, nutrients, and electrolytes.
- Nieman D et al. Bananas as an Energy Source during Exercise: A Metabolomics Approach. PLoS ONE. 2012; [cited Oct 14 2014] 7(5):E37479-E37479.
- Illian T, Casey J, Bishop P. Omega 3 Chia Seed Loading as a Means of Carbohydrate Loading. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011;25(1):61-65.
- Watson P, Love T, Maughan R, Shirreffs S. A comparison of the effects of milk and a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink on the restoration of fluid balance and the exercise capacity in a hot, humid environment. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2008; 104:633-642.