Pre and Post-Exercise Nutrition

Rec & PE Blog

This blog feature is a write-up from Sheri Branson, Full Time Instructor in the Health, Wellness & Physical Education academic department.

Think of your body as an engine and your food as the fuel for our engine. Without the fuel we will not be able to start up and get going.

Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy to fuel your exercise. Choose complex carbs such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains over simple carbs found in sweets and processed foods. This will help maximize vitamin, mineral and fiber and minimize added sugar, fat, and sodium intake. Complex carbohydrates are essential in maintaining energy stores and take longer to digest than simple carbohydrates due to their higher fiber content.

Timing of nutrients is important regarding exercise. Carbohydrates are the fuel for your engine, and it is important to fuel up before exercise. Eating too close to a workout can cause GI discomfort. Make sure to experiment with different combinations of foods and timing. Start with a balanced meal 3-4 hours before exercise or a snack 1-2 hours before exercise. Suggestions for pre-exercise fuel include:

  • PBJ with a half banana
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Oatmeal with fruit
  • Apple with nut butter
  • Nuts with dried fruit
  • Pretzels with hardboiled egg
  • Trail mix
  • Wrap with hummus or turkey

After you exercise, it is equally important to refuel. Try to eat within an hour of completing your exercise routine. The post-exercise snack or meal should include some form of protein to rebuild and repair muscles, complex carbohydrates to replenish the energy your muscles burned while exercising, and healthy fats to help reduce inflammation. Suggestions for post-exercise recovery foods include:

  • Smoothie made with low-fat milk and frozen fruit and/or vegetables (adding a scoop of protein powder is optional)
  • Greek yogurt and fruit
  • Whole grain wrap with a protein such as turkey, tuna, chicken, tofu, or nut butter
  • Hummus and cut vegetables
  • Scrambled eggs on whole grain toast with avocado slices
  • Low-fat chocolate milk

Be mindful that your post exercise snack contains both healthy carbohydrates and protein to promote recovery and replenish your energy stores.

Recovery Smoothie
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 scoop vanilla or chocolate powder (optional)

Combine all in blender and enjoy!

Image Credit: Alex Lvrs on Unsplash