As the saying goes, timing is everything. This is especially true when it comes to fitness and nutrition. Delivering the optimal amount of nutrients to your body at the right time can play a major role in performance and recovery. And although the primary concern for most workouts lasting fewer than 90 minutes is fluid replenishment (ACSM, 2012), small, pre-/post-workout snacks may help prepare your body for exercise and enhance your overall performance and recovery.
Nutritional demands differ based on the workout duration and intensity (Mayo Clinic, 2010). And the focus can vary a bit depending on whether you are preparing for a workout or recovering from one. Prior to a workout, focus on consuming carbohydrates to top off your muscle energy stores (glycogen), combined with smaller amounts of protein to help protect muscle and reduce post-exercise muscle soreness (SCAN, 2009). After a workout, the focus is similar in terms of carbohydrate replenishment, but may include a bit more protein to help rebuild and repair damaged muscle tissue. Try these snack ideas to help deliver the right amount of fuel at the right time to take your workouts to the next level.
The 30-minute Workout
The carbohydrates in fresh fruit provide easily accessible energy, while the protein found in peanut butter and yogurt may help get you through those shorter-duration routines.
The 60-minute Workout
The half bagel with cinnamon cottage cheese is a great protein-carbohydrate combo before hitting the gym. After your workout, the quinoa salad offers all the muscle-repairing benefits of a higher-protein snack coupled with the vital antioxidant properties found in mango and black beans.
The 90-minute Workout
Oatmeal With Brown Sugar, Sliced Apples and Slivered Almonds.
Blueberry Beef Patty
An oatmeal and fruit combination is a hearty way to top off your energy stores. But when you’re looking for higher protein following a longer workout, a blueberry beef patty on a small roll may do the trick. Beef is rich in the amino acid L-carnitine, which some studies show has potential as an intervention to address delayed onset muscle soreness (Connolly, 2003).
Ensuring our body has the optimal nutrients at the right time may help to enhance workouts and minimize recovery time. And although there are standard nutritional goals, individual tolerance and digestive issues around workout times can vary. You may have to experiment a bit to see what works to help you feel and perform your best while satisfying your taste buds.
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) (2012). Preventing the “Low-Fuel Light” in Endurance Exercise. ACSM Fit Society Page Spring 2012.
American Council on Exercise (ACE) (2013). ACE Fit Healthy Recipes.
Connolly, D. et al. (2003). Treatment and prevention of delayed onset muscle soreness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 17, 1, 197-208.
Mayo Clinic (2010). Eating and Exercise: 5 Tips To Maximize Your Workouts.
Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) (2009). Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Eating Before Exercise: Nutrition Fact Sheet, April 2009.
By Gina Crome
Gina M. Crome, M.S., M.P.H., R.D.Gina Crome is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer through the American Council on Exercise. She holds a dual Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology as well as a Masters in Public Health Nutrition from Loma Linda University whereby she received the Selma Andrews Award for Excellence and Professionalism.
Over the past 20 years, Gina’s mission has focused on guiding individuals towards gaining a better quality of life. She has previously struggled with her own weight issues and has since lost a total of 172 pounds, driving her passion home to promote healthier lifestyles. Gina is available for media interviews and community appearances and she is the author of various online nutrition and fitness columns.