Food As Fuel: What You Should Eat Before And After Exercise

Here at Be Well, we (for the most part) believe the bulk of one’s diet should consist of protein, fats, and vegetables. We encourage our community members to mindfully move their bodies on a regular basis. We don’t count calories, but instead we count nutrients — and focus our awareness on filling the body with foods that will complement our immune systems, hormones, and genetics.

So, when it comes to pairing exercise and diet, we know a thing or two! This is when we talk about the necessity of complex carbohydrates and how to incorporate them to sustainably assist proper muscle recovery and restoration of glycogen stores (your fuel source when working out).

Your body requires energy to digest properly and it also requires energy to work out. By combining the two, you’re asking your body to move in two different directions at the same time — so it’s important to intentionally space out your meals so that these functions can work together rather than compete with one another.

Working out requires a significant amount of energy, as does recovery, so supporting yourself through that journey is also essential. Make sure you are eating enough throughout the whole day (not just pre- and post-workout meals). When choosing which foods to consume, always consider that carbohydrates are generally the easiest foods for your body to metabolize and therefore the quickest — so eating these prior to a workout is ideal.

Once your workout begins, your body switches gears into fight-or-flight mode and digestion begins to slow down, focusing on directing energy and blood supply to muscles. Food should be consumed a minimum of one hour out from exercising so that it has time to settle and metabolize in the body. Eat a green apple and a small amount of nut butter or a piece of Ezekiel toast topped with almond butter and chopped banana. Eating protein and a lot of fats can leave a heaviness in the stomach that will stay well into the workout and may cause nausea.

Post workout, it is very important to supply your body with nutrients and minerals that will help the body recover. That’s when it’s time to fill up on protein and healthy fats. A well-rounded meal such as a vegetable salad with clean protein and healthy fats is ideal. How you build your recovery meal depends on what you are trying to achieve in your exercise regimen. For example, a body builder will eat very differently than an office worker doing a lunchtime jog.

Other things to consider during this refueling process will be the type of exercise you did, your age, your weight, and how frequently you work out. The most efficient way to refuel is within the first 30-minute window post moving, as your body is like a sponge and is looking for a fresh supply of glycogen stores to replenish itself with.

Below is a recipe for a post-workout meal we recommend for someone with a daily exercise routine.

Salmon and Kale Salad
 
Ingredients
  • ½ head of curly kale, finely chopped
  • ½ sweet potato, roasted and chopped
  • ½ green zucchini, roasted and chopped
  • 1 medium steak of salmon
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp crumbled sheep’s feta
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 tbsp crushed walnut pieces
  • Extra virgin oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Wrap the salmon in foil, drizzle with half the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  2. Place the salmon wrapped in foil in a preheated oven (400° F) for around 25 minutes.
  3. Make a dressing of olive oil and the rest of the lemon juice.
  4. Combine the rest of the ingredients and place the cooked salmon on top. Add the dressing.

 

For a quicker prep time, we suggest you bake a few servings of vegetables and bake a few steaks of salmon ahead of time, so that you can throw this salad together when you are on the run.