Some days you’re on fire at the gym, setting personal records and enjoying every minute. Other times it feels like you’re walking under water between sets. Your energy levels are impacted by sleep quality, nutrition, external stress, and more. Diet is a big deal—what you eat and drink before and after your workout makes a world of difference in how you feel and perform.
Habits to Sink Your Teeth Into
Meal planning is an excellent step on your fitness journey, but you should first get the basics right before you even consider enhancing your routine. Good nutrition habits power your workout routine as much as anything you consume in the moment.
Set yourself up for sweat success with these quick tips:
- Drink lots of water. If there’s a step-by-step guide for a life well-lived, staying hydrated tops the list. Set phone reminders to fill your cup every hour.
- Go for whole. Homemade, whole-food meals can give you a range of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients and offer a balance of macronutrients—especially fibre, which many of us often don’t get enough of.
- Enjoy low-glycaemic treats. The glycaemic index (GI) is a score ranging from 0–100 to indicate a food’s glucose level. The higher the GI, the faster your blood sugar levels spike. Processed foods are often full of added sugars and other simple carbs, saturated fat, and sodium. Skip the crackers and grab celery and hummus for a more satisfying snack.
- Smart on-the-go nutrition. Everyone has busy days, so packing quick, balanced meals and snacks ensures you can safely skip the drive-through. USANA Active Nutrition is one delicious lineup you can use to support your life in motion.
The Importance of Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition
When it comes to training and exercise, food is fuel—both before and after your workout. When you eat, your stomach digests the food and converts carbohydrates into glucose, which gives you the energy to do just about anything, from getting out of bed to cycling 10 kilometres to work. Glucose absorbs into the bloodstream, where it’s stored until you need it.
Eating well is just as important after training, too. Your muscles undergo a lot of stress when you exercise—especially during weight training or other strength-building activities. And post-workout nutrition helps repair muscle tissue, supports muscle growth, replenishes your glycogen stores, and replaces electrolytes and fluids.
The Big Three: Proteins, Fats, and Carbs
Any pre- or post-workout meal plan worth its salt must include a healthy balance of proteins, carbs, and fats (oh my!). These macronutrients each perform a vital task in the everyday workings of your body.
If you were a house, protein would be the bricks, furniture, and rooftop. Protein builds muscle and tissue; makes up your hair, skin, and nails; and helps your organs function as they should. It’s present in every cell of your body to support growth and development.
Healthy fats support a healthy heart and offer an alternative energy source. They’re great to support prolonged exercising or when working out at a low intensity.
As already mentioned, carbohydrates are your primary fuel source. But it’s important you eat the right types of carbohydrates—no processed foods—and in healthy amounts. What your body doesn’t use gets converted into body fat, so be careful with your daily allowance.
Eat Smart, Train Hard: Pre-Workout Meal and Snack Tips
Your pre-workout meal or snack should provide all the nutrients and energy you need to sustain whatever workout activity you plan to do. One critical aspect of pre-workout nutrition is timing. You don’t want to wolf down a heavy meal 20 minutes before you train. Likewise, you don’t want to grab a small bite of something when you still have three hours before you begin.
Let’s break down what you should eat and when to make the most of your workout sessions.
Your workout starts in three or more hours
This is an excellent opportunity to fuel up on slow-release carbs and healthy fats. Try a poached egg and avocado on toast, a turkey salad sandwich on wholegrain bread, or salmon on brown rice with roasted vegetables.
Your workout starts in two hours
Not long until your workout, but just long enough to enjoy some energy-filled food. Protein shakes are an excellent fuel source, especially if you blend in almond butter or a banana. Speaking of nut butters, a PB and J sandwich on wholegrain bread will power you through your workout, or you might prefer to keep it simple with wholegrain cereal or oatmeal with a sprinkle of fruit.
Your workout starts in an hour or less
When time is tight, eat smart. Bananas are a fantastic on-the-go energy source. And if you have a spoon handy, Greek yoghurt with fruit or nuts will keep hunger at bay; if not, grab an energy bar.
Remember—you don’t need to eat something at each hour mark. Pick just one pre-workout mealtime that suits you best.
Gobble Those Gains: Post-Workout Meal and Snack Tips
You’ve trained hard—now it’s time to reward your body with everything it needs to refuel, recover, and reap the benefits of your workout. Your body has worked hard, so don’t keep the pressure on by choosing hard-to-digest foods. Instead, keep it simple with a combination of easily digestible carbs, proteins, and fats, and your body will love you for it. Try adding these tasty snacks and meals to your post-workout regimen to see a difference.
- Cottage cheese
- Pitta and humus
- Baked sweet potato and salmon skewers
- Grilled lemon chicken and roast vegetables
- Tuna and wholegrain pasta bake
- Omelette with mushrooms, peppers, and ham
Try these delicious pre- and post-workout meals and snacks for yourself, and watch your workout go from Ow! to Wow!