Whether they’re fueling up for a workout or recovering from a double header, elite athletes deal with a lot of the same nutrition confusion as the rest of us, says Tara Mardigan, RD, nutritionist to the Boston Red Sox organization. “But the goal is always the same _ provide enough energy to sustain physical and mental efforts for the duration of your activity.”
That’s where timing becomes key. How long you have before _ and after_ a sweat session determines the grub and how much you get. And though it seems obvious that what you’d eat two hours before a workout would be different than 15 minutes before, it’s important to note the different nutrient balance your snack should pack. (For example, a high fiber bar that fills you up hours ahead of time won’t feel as good when you’re running while it’s trying to be digested.) To get the most out of your pre- or post-workout nibble, stick to the following timing and nutritional guidelines.
2-Plus Hours Before a Workout
With a workout two hours away, you want to make sure your snack offers a combination of protein and low-glycemic carbohydrates, which are slow to absorb and help you sustain energy levels, says Mardigan. Again, the aim is to feel energized and satiated throughout your activity. Load up with 6 ounces of plain, fat free Greek yogurt topped with KIND Healthy Grain clusters, suggests Mardigan. Or try edamame with a touch of salt and lemon juice on whole-wheat pita. For grab-and-go bites, pair your favorite fruit with low-fat string cheese or a serving of nuts.
1 Hour Before a Workout
“When you’re eating less than two hours before a workout, you want to scale back the amount of protein, fat, and fiber you’re eating, as these foods generally take longer to digest and aren’t always readily available as fuel for your workout,” says Mardigan. But definitely don’t eliminate protein completely. It’s important to keep a little bit in the snack so you don’t suffer from a sugar spike and crash before you even have a chance to get active, she says. To achieve the optimum nutrient balance try a 60-calorie Appleboost Applesauce cup with two tablespoons of non-fat Greek yogurt or enjoy half a grapefruit sprinkled with sea salt. The electrolytes in the salt help you stay hydrated while you sweat.
30 Minutes Before a Workout
If there’s only a half hour left in your workout countdown, roll out items that offer easy-to-digest carbs like coconut water (Mardigan likes Harvest Bay All Natural Coconut Water) or diluted fruit juice. Without protein there’s still the danger of crashing before your workout so sustaining your energy is top priority. Instead of reaching for a sports drink or caffeinated energy beverage, try Generation Ucan powdered drink mix. “Most sports drinks tend to spike your blood sugar and then drop it really quickly because they’re made of simple sugars like glucose or sucrose,” says Mardigan. “The complex carbohydrates in Generation Ucan provide sustained energy without being hard to digest like high fiber foods.” It also stabilizes blood sugar so your body can burn stored fat for fuel.
After a workout well done you should head straight for the protein powder, right? Not always. “When evaluating your recovery period, focus on when your next meal will be happening,” says Mardigan. “If you’ll be eating a meal within 30 to 45 minutes after a workout, that meal counts as your recovery.” Throwing back a giant shake and then sitting down to dinner sets you up for a diet disaster_you’ll consume way more calories than you want or need. But if you’re next meal is a few hours out, plan for a quick recovery snack made up of carbs and a little bit of protein. A hardboiled egg with fruit, chocolate milk, or half a peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich sets a foundation for recovery that your bigger meal will build on.
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