By Samantha Siegfried. Photo by: Alex Lau.
What to eat before and after a workout is one of the biggest questions I have. Should I carb up after an a.m. spin class with one of the free bagels that showed up at my office thanks to National Bagel Day? Or do I go for the Chobani that I dutifully threw in my gym bag before I left the house? Or what if I slept through my alarm but really want to go on a run after work? Is the bagel still worth my while, or am I going to regret it by mile two?
You can learn a lot through trial and error. Or you can just ask an expert. I went to three-time Olympian long-distance runner, Adidas-sponsored athlete, and Primal Health Coach Jen Rhines, to find out what to eat depending on my workout plans.
For cardio workouts like running, spinning, or high-intensity interval training:
Before: Rhines says you should get your carb and protein intake topped up going into your workout. Even if you are on the go, “grab a few nuts to get some protein and carbs in your system,” or make some blood orange chia pudding, says Rhines.
During: Rhines likes to sip an amino drink like these from Optimum EFX during and after her high-intensity workout. “It sets the building blocks for recovery afterward,” she says. “The aminos can reduce fatigue and enhance fat utilization during your workout,” Rhines says, especially if you’re going low-carb or haven’t eaten much beforehand.
After: Rhines has a protein shake with about 20-25 grams of protein right after a hard workout. After you get your protein fix, “you can go back into your normal routine,” says Rhines. If you don’t want the powdered stuff, a meal like roasted chicken with potatoes will do the trick.
Get the recipe: Blood Orange–Chia Pudding
For low-intensity workouts like yoga, pilates, or hiking:
Before: For a workout that’s not leaving you breathless, Rhines suggests going easy on the carbs. “This is the perfect opportunity to work on your body’s fat burning ability,” says Rhines. If you’re hungry, she suggests having a smoothie with avocado, coconut milk, or a nut butter base to get a good amount of healthy fats. “If you need sweetener, be sure to go light,” says Rhines.
During: Rhines suggests drinking water during a low-intensity workout. If you feel that you need an electrolyte boost, these Nuun tablets are a great go-to.
After: After a low-intensity workout, Rhines suggests staying around or below 100 grams of carbs for the day to stay in that fat burning zone. “Skip the snack right after your workout and wait until that hunger hits, even if that doesn’t happen until you have your next meal,” says Rhines. She suggests a hearty salad with some protein.
Get the recipe: Farmers' Market Quinoa Salad
If you’re working out first thing in the morning:
Before: "I recommend drinking a lot water throughout the day, and I always start with eight ounces first thing in the morning” says Rhines. Aside from water, Rhines swears by Bulletproof Coffee. She tops off her coffee with grass-fed butter and a teaspoon ofBrain Octane. “It gets you off to a great start to the day by putting yourself in that fat burning zone,” says Rhines.
After: Stay on top of electrolytes post-workout. If you feel that you need a little extra boost, try a tonic.
Get the recipe: BA Brad's Classic Tonic
If you’re working out after work:
Before: Rhines suggests having coffee or tea with a snack if you feel like you need an extra boost to get yourself out the door. “Caffeine stimulates the brain and has been shown to improve athletic performance,” says Rhines She also highlights the importance of sticking to your normal food routine. Rhines suggests BA’s Grilled Oregano Chicken recipe as a great way to set yourself up for a workout after work. “Your glycogen will be topped up and you will be prepared for your workout,” says Rhines.
After: Working out later in the day or after work might entail getting home late without having much time to eat before you would like to get to bed. “You should have dinner, even if it’s 9 p.m.,” says Rhines. “Just be careful with the type of carbs and the sugar content.” She suggests carbs with lower glycemic indices like sweet potatoes and quinoa. “You want to avoid most ‘white’ foods like white flour, pasta, potatoes and sweets that will cause an insulin spike, which can be disruptive to your sleep and recovery.” Rhines says. “And, most importantly, do not skip meals.”
Get the recipe: Grilled Oregano Chicken
This story originally appeared on Bon Appetit.
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