We know that how we feel when we exercise makes a huge impact on how much effort we put in, how well we feel during, and how easily our muscles recover. Here are our top tips for planning your pre and post workout snacks so you can make the most of your exercise sessions.
I just want to go for a walk…
Our bodies are capable of providing us with a good amount of energy for exercise around an hour, but if you plan to be active for longer than this, or are going to participate in higher intensity exercise, it might pay to have a pre-exercise snack an hour or two before you get started. Otherwise light exercise without a snack beforehand is just fine.
On an empty stomach?
How empty is the question, if it’s been less than three hours since you ate, you’re body will probably run just fine on your last meal, but if it’s been more than three hours, you will most likely need a little energy top up snack.
What’s better for weight loss?
In terms of which is more effective for weight loss, it all depends on you- if it’s a morning walk for example, which is quite easy and doesn’t require great amounts of ongoing effort and concentration, you are fine to go on an empty stomach as you’ll move into that fat burning zone quicker.
If you are planning on higher intensity exercise, and a small snack beforehand means you have more energy stores and can therefore put in more effort during your workout, this may work better for you, as long as the rest of your diet is balanced.
But I have diabetes…
It’s more important to ensure you eat before exercise if you are on medication for diabetes, in which case blood sugar levels can drop too low if it has been too long since a meal.
What kind of pre-exercise snack should I have?
Three key factors- contains carbohydrate, contains protein and is easy to digest. The last thing we need is a fatty hard to digest meal making us want to toss our cookies.
When should I have my snack?
As a rule of thumb, around an hour before exercise is ideal, but anywhere between 30 mins to 2 hours is usually fine- you’ll just need to do a little experimenting to see which feels right for your body.
Do I need a post- workout snack?
If your next meal is a few hours away, and you didn’t have a snack before your workout, it’s a good idea to replace the carbohydrate and protein you lost to make sure your muscles recover well, and putting you in the best form for your next workout.
Again, the winning combination of carbohydrate and protein is key. Around 30-90g of carbohydrate, and 15-30g of protein will be just fine for most of us in the hour after exercise.
Examples of pre/post workout snacks:
1 banana + 1 glass milk
2 tbsp peanut butter on 2 pieces wholemeal bread
300ml glass of flavoured milk
1 tub low fat yoghurt and 1 tennis ball sized piece of fruit
1-2 eggs on 2 pieces wholemeal toast
1 trail mix bar (dried fruit and nuts)
1 small bowl porridge/natural muesli with milk/yoghurt
1-2 slices cheese on 6 grain crackers
What about supplements?
It’s up to you, workout supplements such as shakes and bars can be useful for convenience, but are often expensive and contain more protein than needed, or may not contain carbohydrate. Check the labels, and your budget, and make an informed choice about what works for you.
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