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What to Eat Before and After Exercising

Get tips on exactly what to eat before, during, and after exercising for better workouts.

By
Ben Greenfield,
Episode #003

The ideal pre-workout meal is consumed about two hours before exercise, contains about 300-500 calories, and is composed primarily of healthy carbohydrates. If you don’t have time to eat two hours before, a quick 50-100 calorie snack 5-10 minutes prior to exercise will also be effective.

Good Pre-Exercise Snacks

Try a bowl of oatmeal, whole-grain cereal, whole-wheat toast, or even sweet potato or yam as a pre-workout meal eaten two hours before your workout. If you have to eat directly before your workout, a small piece of fruit—like an apple or banana—will do. If that sounds a bit too blah for you, then you can try just a little bit of protein or fat, like a teaspoon of peanut butter or a small handful of almonds, but just don’t go overboard and eat last night’s pizza for your pre-workout meal.

What Should You Eat While Exercising?

Take good care of your body’s fueling needs for exercise, and engage in any type of caloric restriction apart from exercise.

Interestingly, research has shown that if you exercise for longer than 60 minutes without supplying your body with any nutrients, you actually burn few calories and less fat than if you had eaten, and your post exercise metabolic rate, or rate of calorie burning, is also lower.

If you plan on exercising for less than an hour, you don’t need to eat; just make sure you hydrate with small, frequent sips of water during your workout. But if you’re doing something like a long run or bike ride, or maybe a couple of back-to-back fitness classes, try to eat 50-100 calories every half hour, preferably from a quick carbohydrate source that is easy to carry, like a ziplock bag of raisins, an energy bar, energy gels, or even a sports drink. The goal is not to replace every calorie that you burn, but rather to give you just enough fuel so that you can maintain a brightly burning metabolism. And one other quick and dirty tip: Make sure you review your health club’s rules about eating in the gym; the last thing you want is a personal trainer chiding you for your trail of animal crackers.

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