Exercise is not only beautifying, it is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, protecting your heart and lungs, helping you maintain blood sugar levels and providing strength, endurance, and flexibility. Some studies even show that regular intense exercise helps increase bone density, an essential factor in preventing osteoporosis. In order to sustain quality workouts, however, you must provide your body with the fuel it needs for energy and repair, before, during and after you exercise. Because of this, you need to eat foods from high quality nutrition sources both pre and post-workout.
The foods we eat contain three macronutrients: fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Each play a role in preparing and repairing your body for exercise.
Carbohydrates are our body’s most direct source of energy. According to Nutrition for the Athlete, a fact sheet from Colorado State University, about 50 percent of our body’s energy comes from carbohydrates when we exercise.
Fat also supplies fuel to the body, but more slowly than carbohydrates. During the first 90 minutes or so of exercise, fat metabolism accounts for about half of the body’s energy requirements, and that jumps up by about 25 percent after we’ve depleted carbs during long-term exercise lasting more than 20 minutes.
Lastly, when you exercise, your muscle tissues sustain damage or “micro-tears”. Protein helps your body repair these tears after exercise, building stronger muscles in the process.
Let’s take a look at the best foods to eat pre and post workout to maximize your energy and repair your muscles!
1. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds cover all of your macronutrients (fats, carbs and protein), and are great to eat before your workout, and even during your workout for prolong your endurance. Almonds, walnuts, cashews and chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are perfect examples of energy sources that are also great for recovery!
If you will be participating in a sustained workout, eating an avocado a few hours beforehand can provide valuable healthy fat for that energetic boost when carbohydrate depletion occurs.
Banana is one of the most perfect pre and post workout foods as they are full of complex carbs, minerals such as potassium and fiber. Our close genetic relatives, chimps, eat bananas in bunches and thrive. Once you’ve stabilized a Candida condition, you too can enjoy bananas and other sweet fruits. I personally eat 3+ bananas a day when I’m active, especially in the summer. I find them to be such perfect human foods, and I never gain weight from them as my body is balanced to handle fruit sugars. I actually just ate my third one today while writing this blog…but the day is not over yet!
4. Glowing Green Smoothie
The GGS is the perfect workout food. It’s filled with complex carbohydrates, amino acids (the building blocks of protein), vitamins, and minerals, but it moves easily through your system and digests thoroughly so it won’t weigh you down. Try a GGS before your workout and see how terrific you feel! If you work out in the morning I definitely would make the GGS your pre workout food, if you do eat something before. If I practice yoga first thing in the morning, it is the first thing I have afterwards.
5. Chia seeds
We touched on chia seeds earlier, but they really do deserve the spotlight. They are loaded with omega-3 fats for sustained energy, protein, and antioxidants. Ancient Aztec and Incan warriors ate chia for strength and stamina during battle. Having chia a few hours before a long, intense workout can help provide fat for fuel after the carbs burn off. Eating them after a workout can provide tissue repairing protein. You can even have them during sustained activity such as hiking or bicycling to really amp up your energy levels.
6. Power Protein Smoothie
After a workout, you’ll want to replenish your supply of plant-based amino acids so your body can repair tissue. The Power Protein Smoothie is a delicious, healthful way to do so, because it’s loaded with chia, acai, and other raw protein sources. It can also help stabilize your blood sugar post-workout.
I don’t recommend whey (which is sourced from dairy) or soy protein powders, which are heavily processed, devoid of enzymes and difficult to digest.
Digestive enzymes, however, can help break down proteins and nutrients for maximum absorption. Pairing digestive enzymes with a protein shake makes a brilliant combination for post workout muscle repair. Learn more about my Feel Good Digestive Enzymes!”
7. Coconut Water
Drinking coconut water is a great way to replenish electrolytes lost through sweating during a workout. This is especially important if you are exercising in a hot environment. I recommend drinking coconut water during sustained workouts, as well as after exercising. Look for natural, unsweetened brands in the bottled beverage section of your grocery store.
If you workout later in the day, eating some quinoa at lunch can provide you with carbs and protein for energy and muscle repair. It’s a fantastic energy food. Eat this superfood a few hours before you workout. Try my Coconut Quinoa Cereal recipe!
Eating about ½ cup of this hearty grain an hour or two before exercise will provide you with carbohydrate energy necessary for quick, intense workout sessions.
10. Veggies and hummus
A great post-workout snack, veggies and hummus will help you replenish glycogen stores while providing a small amount of plant protein for muscle repair and fat for sustained energy. Try my Chickpea-Less Hummus, which substitutes zucchini for chickpeas but has all the protein and calcium included from the tahini (sesame seeds).
Now that you know how to prepare your body for exercise and how to nourish your muscles afterward, it’s time to put this knowledge to good use! Yoga is a great way to strengthen the body and the mind. It’s something that’s very close to my heart, and I want to share it with you! I created The Beauty Detox Power Yoga Series to help you achieve your goals, physically and mentally, and you can take it with you wherever you go.