Starting a new fitness routine? Don’t forget to consider how food and hydration choices might impact your workout and recovery. Read on for insight on the best pre- and post-workout snacks and answers to the most common question about staying hydrated.
Should I snack before or after working out?
Whether or not you even need to include a snack before or after a workout depends on a few different factors, including hunger, duration and intensity of physical activity, and, for those living with diabetes, blood glucose levels.
A very basic but critical question: Are you hungry? If it’s been a while since your last meal and your stomach is grumbling, it might be worth considering having a small snack before tackling your next workout. Paying attention to your hunger and satiety (fullness) cues is an important part of listening to your body and fueling it appropriately.
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TIP: The timing of the eating or snacking occasion does matter. Ideally, you want to give your body some time to digest food before engaging in physical activity. The best time for a pre-workout snack would be about one to four hours prior to your physical activity or, at minimum, at least 30 minutes before your workout.
Duration and intensity of physical activity
How long you work out does play a role in determining if you need a pre- and/or post-workout snack. If the physical activity is light or moderate in nature and/or 30 minutes or less, you likely don’t need a pre- or post-workout snack for refueling purposes. If you are engaging in physical activity that lasts at least 60 minutes or more and is of moderate to high intensity, it might be worth considering a pre- and post-workout snack routine to help with muscle recovery and repair.
TIP: Post-workout recovery snacks should be consumed within 30 to 60 minutes of completing the physical activity to maximize the nutrition benefits for muscle recovery and repair.
Blood glucose levels
People with diabetes should be monitoring their blood glucose levels prior to engaging in physical activity and at the completion of physical activity. Longer-duration physical activities might also require that they monitor blood glucose levels during the workout session. The blood glucose reading influences whether or not a snack is required to maintain healthy glucose levels (and should be factored in along with the person’s hunger and duration of activity, as outlined earlier).
TIP: Participate in endurance events? It might be worth discussing the use of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) with your healthcare provider. The CGM allows for ease of monitoring blood glucose trends throughout the duration of the event.
What are good pre- and post-workout snacks?
Look for options with easy-to-digest carbohydrates for a quick boost of energy.
• Toast: Top a slice of whole-grain toast with 1 tablespoon of nut butter and a few slices of fresh banana and strawberries.
• Yogurt: Combine low-sugar Greek yogurt with ½ cup of fresh or frozen fruit.
• Pita chips: Snack on whole-grain baked pita chips with hummus.
• Oats: Eat a snack-size portion, about ½ cup, of overnight oats with dried or fresh fruit.
Find choices that contain both protein and carbohydrates to maximize muscle recovery and repair.
• Smoothies: Combine frozen fruit and a handful of fresh spinach with a high-protein yogurt or milk to create a hydrating post-workout treat.
• Sandwiches: Use one slice of whole-grain bread and layer meats, cheeses or nut butter and a whole-fruit jam to create a protein-packed post-workout snack.
• Homemade trail mix: Combine your favorite nuts, seeds and dried or dehydrated fruits for a portable snack option. Try to keep the serving size around ¼ cup.
• Crackers & cheese or nut butter: Use a whole-grain or seed-based cracker and top with your favorite sliced cheese or nut butter.
How much water should I drink to stay hydrated?
The old eight-cups-of-fluid-daily rule isn’t exactly accurate for everyone. Fluid needs are dependent on gender, age, environment, activity levels and a person’s health conditions. Typically, hydration needs are met through both fluid and food, and no single formula works for everyone. Understanding your body’s needs, however, and assessing things like urine color and thirst can be helpful clues in determining if you are staying adequately hydrated. To determine your personal hydration needs, speak with a registered dietitian.