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The Best Pre and Post-Workout Snacks

Deciding what foods to eat pre and post-workout seems complicated to a lot of people. But it doesn’t have to be! We’re here to tune out all the noise and simplify the basic formula to optimally pairing your meals with your routines.

When you have a goal in mind such as strength training or fat burning, certain foods can be more beneficial to each goal. But regardless of what your desired outcome is, simply choosing a healthy option with a good balance of protein and carbohydrates, while eating within an optimal window of time are the two keys to success.

Why it’s important in the first place to eat before and after working out

Prior to working out, a healthy meal serves an important purpose of fueling the body with energy and improving the performance and endurance of your workout. Having another balanced meal within an hour of working out helps aid in the recovery and restoration of your muscles and nutrients needed to rebuild and complete your efforts.

It turns out, that wether or not you workout on an empty stomach, you still burn the same amount of fat. However, regularly working out without food in your stomach can actually lead you to lose muscle mass and work against you in the long-run.

How long before and after a workout should you eat?

You never want to eat too close to the time you’re working out, since your digestive system is going to be working hard and competing with everything else. Consuming a meal or even a moderate snack within 30 minutes of your routine can also lead to gastrointestinal symptoms including stomach ache and nausea. On the flip side. there’s nothing fun about being mid-way through a cycle class or cardio routine and feeling your blood sugar suddenly take a dive.

According to most health and dietician experts, the best window of time to eat before a workout ranges from 30 minutes to 3 hours prior, while the optimal time to eat after a workout is within 60 minutes.

As for the wide range of time prior to working out, it really is more of a personal preference as to the most optimal time in that window. If you already have a fast metabolism and have a tendency to get hungry often, and you plan to burn a lot of calories through a HIIT, cycle or even a Bootcamp class, it might be good to fuel up with something small 30 minutes to an hour out from your workout. On the other hand, if you had a very large lunch, waiting at least a couple hours before pushing yourself is ideal. For eating afterwards, the reasoning behind the much smaller window stems from research that has shown muscle restoration decreases below 50% when you wait to eat a couple hours later, as opposed to within 60 minutes of a workout.

Choosing the best pre-workout snack

There are just 2 components to choosing a great pre-workout snack:

1. A healthy option (food that is minimally processed), while also providing nutritional value

2. A balance of protein and carbs

Workout goals often center around burning fat and/or building muscle. With these two main goals in mind, protein works to restore and rebuild muscles while carbs help provide energy. Even when you engage in a cardio workout, you’ll still be building muscle while needing more energy. Meanwhile, when your focus in strength training, you still output some energy while burning muscle. The tipping point in that balance of course can be sway the balance with one a little more over the other depending on your goals and your workout type, but it’s still important that no matter what your workout is, you. include both protein and carbohydrates. The combo of both of these components also helps provide a slow and steady release of energy as you burn through your routine.

Choosing the best post-workout snack

The equation for food choices doesn’t change much between pre and post-workout, the only difference here can be the quantity. You typically want to eat lighter prior to your workout with the intention to give yourself a ‘boost’ and not be too weighed down with food in your gut, while afterwards, you’ll need a lot more food with the intention to restore and rebuild.

Our top choices

We’ve compiled pulled some of our favorite pre and post-workout snacks from this list by Greatist Health and Wellness as well as more of our personal favorites to give you some pre and post-workout meal inspiration!

Catherine Rotman