Whether you’re out for a trail hike or hitting the gym for strength training, your body needs fuel to power it! But choosing the right fuel can mean the difference between an energetic, refreshing workout and a sluggish, dragging yourself around workout!
Of course, the type and intensity of exercise you’re doing will dictate exactly how much and what type of foods you need for optimal performance. Experiment with what works for you. Keep a food diary related to workouts and you’ll quickly see what gives you energy and what doesn’t seem to work. If you’re training for a specific sport or exercising for weight loss, consider hiring a sports dietitian for a more detailed plan.
This article give you tips on the right types of food to choose and which snacks fit into those categories. (Hint: these are all included in our Vegan Snack Box here)
The One Food You Need for Good Workouts
Carbohydrates are the true fuel for nearly every type of exercise. While we also need protein, fat, and water to run efficiently, during exercise your body will rely on carbohydrates to fuel movement, keep a consistent level of energy, and even help your brain function better!
Be sure to choose a complex carbohydrate (peas, beans, whole grains, and some fruits). These provide full nutrition with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and keep your blood sugar from spiking. Simple carbs such as refined sugar or sugary sports drinks are really just empty calories and will give you a quick jolt of energy but a crash soon after.
Good choices that are easy to pack and filled with nutrition include: bananas or dried fruit, whole-grain cereal, breads, or granola bars (our favorites are Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars and Monk Pack protein cookie), or bean-based snacks like Beanfield’s Pico De Gallo chips. These are all easy to stash for a snack break or carry in your backpack if you’re going out into the wild.
It’s also smart to add a little protein to your pre-workout snack and they only work better when combined with carbs. Choose a small portion of low-fat milk, plain Greek yogurt, or a cheese stick but save the big protein snacks for your post-workout recovery.
And yes, if you start your day with a cup of coffee and then workout, you’ll be fine! We would never suggest not drinking coffee!! But follow that cup with at least 8 ounces of water and drink water frequently during your workout. If you’re exercising strenuously, for more than one hour, or in the heat, choose a beverage with electrolytes.
When to Eat
Try to eat at least ½ hour before working out and aim for a light meal or snack. This gives your body time to absorb the nutrients so they’re available for you when you need them. If your workout is high-intensity or longer than one hour, take a refueling break and eat a light carb snack that also includes some protein (such as nuts or peanut butter).