If you ask any fitness maven walking (or more likely running) down the street, they will immediately condemn the idea of “fasted cardio”, referring to the method of not eating before a workout in order to burn and lose body fat.  They will tell you it is ineffective and potentially dangerous, and then probably start describing the simply seasoned chicken breast or protein-packed omelet (depending on what time of the day it is) they chowed down before they laced up their sneakers.

In order to get the full benefits of exercise, you need a healthy and balanced diet.  Whether you’re hiking outdoors or sweating it out in a spin class, the right foods before and after a workout provide you with more energy and aid your body in recovering faster.

The best food pre-workout is going to be packed with carbohydrates and proteins. Carbs are your muscles’ main energy source and protein helps to improve your muscles’ growth and recovery. You want to avoid eating too much fat before a workout as that will cause you to feel more sluggish and heavy, although healthy fats like avocado have been shown to be a good source of fuel for moderate-to-low intensity workouts. Ideally, you’ll want to eat 2-3 hours before a workout, so that your body has time to digest. Good sources of protein pre-workout include:

  • Apple wedges with peanut butter – Apples are a source of natural sugar, and combined with a protein like peanut butter can still be a great energy source
  • Chicken – Baked chicken is best.
  • Greek yogurt
  • Omelets
  • Homemade protein bars – Homemade is a great way to control what goes into your body!
  • Protein shakes

As your pre-workout time ticks down, eating a meal that contains mainly carbs and some protein is ideal to ensure digestion. Simple carbs like bananas, dried fruit, and fruit smoothies with a dash of protein powder provide a quick energy boost for a 30-60 minute workout, whereas complex carbs are slow releasing energy sources and have a slower metabolism rate.

Sources of carbs include:

  • Rice – Brown rice is ideal, combine with the chicken mentioned above and some veggies for a balanced, pre-workout meal!
  • Porridge/oatmeal
  • Wholegrain bread
  • Sweet potato
  • Pasta

Many of these foods can double up as energy sources post- workout as well. Complex carbs and proteins are a necessary foundation as the body rebuilds itself post workout. Proteins are key to help repair and rebuild muscle tissue. It’s recommended to eat your post-workout snack/meal within 30 minutes after the treadmill slows to a stop. And of course, make sure you are replenishing fluids to further help your recovery. So, get cooking, get running, happy workout and bon appétit!

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