No matter what time of day you exercise, you must fuel and hydrate before, hydrate during, and refuel and hydrate after your workout. The combination of adequate energy and hydration will optimize your exercise performances and allow your body to recover before the next workout.
If you workout in the afternoon, lunch is probably the last full meal you have before you exercise. What should you eat for lunch, you ask? Eat as you normally would any other day. A balanced meal rich in carbohydrates, protein, and fat is perfectly fine for about 3-4 hours before your workout. Remember to begin hydrating with water if you have not done so already by lunch.
About 1-2 hours before your workout itself, have a snack. This snack should be primarily rich in simple carbohydrates, and low in fat, fiber, and protein. The reason for this is to fuel up energy stores quickly so that they can be used when exercising. Remember to keep hydrating with water.
- 8-10 oz sports drink (Gatorade, Powerade)
- 1/2 sports bar
- 3-5 saltine crackers
- 1 slice of white toast with jelly
- 1/2 banana
- 1/2 cup trailmix
**If you workout in the morning, do NOT work out on an empty stomach. Your body needs energy for fueling and you will "hit the wall" if you do not have enough energy stored. Below are some ways to fuel yourself quickly when you do not have enough time to eat meals/snacks before your workout.
- Squirt a tbsp of honey in your mouth
- 3-5 saltine crackers + 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 sports bar
- 8-10 oz sports drink
- Sports gels
During the workout itself, remember to hydrate appropriately. If you are exercising less than 1 hour, it is appropriate to hydrate with water only. If you are exercising more than 1 hour, it is appropriate to hydrate with water + sports drink to refuel electrolytes.
After exercise, it is very important to refuel on energy and protein to replete energy stores, and to promote muscle recovery. The "window of opportunity" for muscle recovery in the body takes place within 2 hours after the workout ends. However, many research studies actually recommends a much narrower window, which suggests repleting within 45 minutes after the workout. Therefore, it is important to refuel on protein and carbohydrates as soon as possible to achieve best recovery. Research recommends refueling with 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio after a workout.
- Banana + 2 tbsp peanut butter
- 8 oz of Chocolate milk
- Whole wheat pita chips + hummus
- Apple + Greek yogurt
Fuel with simple carbohydrates before the workout, hydrate before, during, and after the workout, and refuel with carbohydrates and proteins after the workout.
*Note that these recommendations fit the generally healthy average exerciser. Recommendations for specific sport competitions, and advanced intercollegiate athletics may be more rigid than these general recommendations.