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Food is Fuel: What to Eat Before and After a Workout

Athletes and enthusiasts are always looking for ways to improve their performance. But what if we told you the secret to a better workout wasn’t synthetic energy drinks or “MegaMAXX” power bars – but good, clean foods you enjoy eating anyway?

Fitness is a combination of regular exercise and eating the right foods at the right times. Good nutrition can help your body perform better and recover faster after exercise, so being mindful about what you eat before and after a workout can help you achieve the results you want.

The Importance of Eating Before a Workout

Your body burns the same amount of fat regardless of whether or not you eat before a workout, but hitting the gym on an empty stomach can actually cause you to lose muscle. Here’s why: when you’re hungry, your body goes into survival mode and draws protein away from your muscles instead of your kidneys and liver. This can cause your muscles to shrink and slows down your metabolism, which can make it harder for you to lose weight in the long run. It can also make you dizzy, lightheaded, or lethargic, which increases your chances of injuring yourself. So if you’re hungry and thinking about powering through an intense training session – you might want to think twice.

What to Eat Before a Workout

The best pre-workout snack will include some form of complex carbohydrate and a protein to give your body a combination of immediate and long-lasting energy sources to draw from. We recommend:

  • An apple or banana with nut butter
  • Eggs on a slice of whole-grain toast
  • Multigrain crackers and hummus
  • Oatmeal with berries
  • Greek yogurt and granola
  • Brown rice with veggies

The Importance of Eating After a Workout

During exercise, your body taps glycogen (the fuel stored in your muscles) for energy. And by the time you’ve cranked out those last few reps, your glycogen stores are broken down. Eating another carb-and-protein combo snack about 30-minutes to an hour after your workout will help rebuild your energy reserves so you can continue on with your day. Refueling your body also helps repair and rebuild any torn muscle fibers and keeps your metabolism going strong.

Some people find it hard to eat right after a workout (especially if they worked their core), but research shows that your body’s ability to refill muscle stores decreases by 50% if you wait to eat just two hours after your workout compared to eating right away. Plan ahead and pack a light snack to eat on your way home from the park, court, pool, or gym.

What to Eat After a Workout

The same rules apply to your post-workout snack: try and combine complex carbs and protein. We recommend:

  • A protein-packed smoothie with added nut butter or supplements
  • Salad with chicken, fish, beans, or chickpeas
  • Brown rice or quinoa with sauteed veggies
  • Whole-grain bread with nut butter and banana
  • Whole-grain bread with egg, chicken salad, or tuna salad

You love The Juice Hive’s breakfast dishes, salads, and bowls, but have you checked out our snacks? We carry a variety of clean, healthy snacks to take on – or eat after – the run. Our cold case is also stocked with ready-to-eat options that will keep you feeling fortified and energized. Stop by Mon-Sat (8 am-4 pm) or Sun (9 am-2 pm) for a satisfying smoothie or to browse our huge selection of snacks.