Alex Cao/PhotodiscBy Kati Mora, RD
Ready to sweat? Not so fast! Here, the best foods to eat before and after a workout so can fuel up the right way. Munch on these for your best sweat session yet.
Related: 11 Easy Lunches to Help Shed Weight
Before: Whole Wheat Toast with Sliced Banana and Cinnamon
When it comes to gearing up for workout, carbs are your gym BFF. The key is to have a mixed bag of complex and simple ones so that the release of energy during your workout is slow and steady throughout your routine. Whole-wheat toast with fruit gives you both types of carbs with the bonus of being super easy to digest. Complex carbs will keep your motor humming, while the fruit adds an extra kick of energy. For those training for a race, bananas are perfect in raising potassium levels, which drop when you sweat a lot. For an added bonus, add a dash of cinnamon. The spice has been linked to stabilizing blood sugar and improving brain function.
After: Grilled Chicken and Mixed Vegetables
Your body is in recovery mode, so you need a nutrient dense dish. The lean protein and carbohydrates in chicken will fill you up without feeling overly bloated. Add some veggies in olive oil to keep your ticker in tip top shape.
Before: Greek Yogurt and Trail Mix
Getting ready for a long run? Eat some yogurt first. It's easy on your stomach and when paired with trail mix can give you the little rev your body needs. Just make sure to choose a mix that is mostly nut and dried fruit based with as little fillers as possible. (Yes, sadly we're talking about those little chocolates!) The healthy sugars from dried fruit provide that quick energy boost while seeds and nuts will keep insulin levels from dropping mid-workout. Just remember, a little bit goes a long way. Seeds and nuts are high in fat, which means they take longer to digest. Too many and you could start feeling sluggish and slow as you sweat.
After: Veggie Omelet with Avocado
You already know eggs are a great source of protein and help aid in muscle recovery and growth. Switch it up from the usual scramble and make a veggie-packed omelet. Garnish with a few slices of avocado for fiber and monosaturated fats (the good kind!). Similar to olive oil, avocados can help your body better absorb fat soluble nutrients that your veggies have like vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins are stocked with antioxidants, the best boost for your body, inside and out.
Related: 20 Fast and Easy Vegetable Side Dishes
Need a snack on-the-go on your way to the gym? Stick with a smoothie. Not only are they time-friendly, building your own blend has a bunch of exercise benefits. For a foolproof formula, use your favorite sliced fruit, a cup of Greek yogurt and some granola for a thicker consistency. If you're picking one up, check the label to make sure it's made from whey or milk-based proteins. And no need to go overboard -- 10 to 20 grams of protein before exercising is plenty.
After: Salmon with Sweet Potato
Aside from the usual protein perks, salmon has bioactive peptides, small protein molecules that play a role in inflammation reduction, helping to regulate insulin levels and give you joint support. Sweet potatoes pack in those complex carbs as well as help to restore glycogen levels, which get depleted after a workout.
Before: Oatmeal with Fresh Fruit
Oatmeal is the workout buddy you never have to nag to exercise. It sticks with you throughout your workout by gradually releasing sugar into your bloodstream. Adding fruit to your bowl will help increase the fluid content of your pre-workout snack, keeping you hydrated.
After: Whole Wheat Tuna Fish, Hummus and Spinach Sandwich
If you're a lunchtime exerciser, this is the sandwich for you. Tuna is low in calories, but high in protein and carbs. Hummus is a better-for-you spread over mayo or mustard, while also being high in fiber. And last but certainly not least, spinach is a produce powerhouse, handling everything from curbing your appetite to boosting your complexion and lowering blood pressure and inflammation.
Related: How to Handle Post-Workout Cravings
Before: Apple Wedges with Almond Butter
If it comes down to picking out of the candy dish or an apple for some pre-workout sugar, go for the apple. You'll avoid a sugar crash mid-lunge while stocking up on vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. To keep your stomach from growling, spread a tablespoon of almond butter on your slices. It squashes hunger and amps energy levels up.
After: Chocolate Milk
Recent research has shown that chocolate milk is the latest craze in post-workout snacks, even over water and sports drinks. That's because it has everything you need in one glass: carbs and protein for muscle recovery, water content to replace the fluids lost as sweat and calcium, sodium and sugar -- all ingredients that help you recover faster, retain water and regain energy. Got milk, anyone?
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Alex Cao/PhotodiscBy Kati Mora, RD