By Leigh Ann Thomas, Certified Personal Trainer 

One of the most common questions people have when trying to plan their meals around their workout is, “what is the best thing to eat before and/or after a workout?” Sometimes the answer depends more on the person and the specific activity, but there are some common truths that apply for pre and post-workout nutrition, whether you're a weekend warrior or a seasoned veteran.

As a general rule of thumb, it's best not to eat immediately before a workout because while your muscles are trying to do their "thing," your stomach is trying to simultaneously digest the food in your stomach. These competing demands are a challenge for optimal performance. Moreover, eating too close to a workout may cause you to experience some GI discomfort while you train.

Ideally, you should fuel your body about 1 to 2 hours before your workout, depending on how your body tolerates food. Experiment and see what time frame works best for your body.

Here are some suggestions for pre-workout fuel:

  • 1-2 tbsp nut butter and banana or apple
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt with berries
  • 1/3 cup Oatmeal with almond milk and walnuts
  • Avocado toast (on Ezekiel sprouted bread)
  • Handful of nuts and raisins (two parts raisins: one part nuts)
  • 1 small-medium sweet potato

Notice that each of these suggestions includes protein as well as carbohydrates. Carbs are the fuel. Protein is what rebuilds and repairs, but also "primes the pump" to make the right amino acids available for your muscles. Getting protein and carbohydrates into your system is even more vital post workout.

As soon as you’re finished your workout, get carbohydrates and protein immediately into your body. This gives your muscles the ability to replenish the glycogen they just lost through training and helps your muscles rebuild and repair faster with the available protein and amino acids. Try to eat within 30-60 minutes of completing an intense workout.

Post-workout meals include:

  • Post-workout recovery smoothie (opt for your plant based protein powder, fruit and almond milk)
  • Low-fat chocolate milk
  • Quinoa with fresh or roasted veggies
  • Greek Yogurt with berries
  • Lean meat with veggies and sweet potato

**Remember whole foods are always the best choice, but if you have to supplement with a protein powder, that is fine.

Take Home Points:

  • Your body needs carbohydrates to fuel your working muscles.
  • Protein is to help build and repair muscles.
  • Get a combination of the protein and carbohydrates in your body 1-3 hours pre-workout and within approximately 30-60 minutes post-workout.
  • Never try anything new on a race or event day — it's always best to experiment during training to learn what works best for your body.