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What to eat pre- and post-exercise
by Jessica |  Oct 4, 2013

The foods you consume before and after exercising can make a dramatic difference in your end results. Still, most people don't know what they should be munching on, or how much.

Not eating enough could mean a grumbling stomach during your yoga class, but overdoing it might mean a food baby during Zumba. The idea is to fuel up so that you have just enough energy to sustain you, but not so much that your body is focused on digesting instead of powering you through those high intensity moves. So how do you strike a balance?

Without further ado, your pre- and post- workout menu: 

Before
When your body doesn't have sufficient protein to fuel it when you're exercising, it ends up turning to your muscle tissue instead. Shape magazine calls this "survival mode." To avoid muscle loss, which can also wreak havoc on your metabolism, it's best to eat a snack or small meal that consists of protein and slow-burning, complex carbohydrates about one hour before your workout. That way your body will have plenty of nutrients to draw from. 

If you prefer to exercise in the morning, you'd be hard pressed to find a better option than oatmeal. Instead of pre-made packets, which are often laden with added sugar, try making your own with 1/2 cup of the steel-cut variety, 1/3 cup blueberries and 1 tablespoon of slivered almonds. The fiber in the oats will stay with you through the most grueling session, and the fruit helps to keep your body hydrated. Wash it down with david kirsch energy bubbles, which contains muscle-building chromium as well as potassium, which tends to get depleted when you sweat.

If you work out in the afternoon, remember that carbs are your friend, not your foe. Fitness magazine explained that by combining complex and simple carbs, you can ensure that sugar is gradually released throughout your workout, thereby preventing a spike or a crash. For this reason, whole grain toast with sliced banana, which provides both kinds of carbs, is a perfect pre-exercise snack. A sprinkling of cinnamon lends a boost in flavor, and has been shown to regulate blood sugar levels. 

You could also make your own wrap on a medium sized whole wheat tortilla with 3 ounces of grilled chicken, two tablespoons of hummus and veggies. The fiber in the hummus and the whole grains give your body a one-two punch of slow-burning fuel, and the lean protein in chicken will make you feel full, not bloated.

After
Don't wait too long to eat after hitting the gym - Shape explained that by the time you cool down, your body has used up all of the glycogen in your muscles. So the quicker you nosh on something, the faster your metabolism can burn calories and your muscles can repair themselves.

Coming back from a morning jog? Since eggs are packed with protein that can repair your muscles from wear and tear, Fitness magazine suggested making an omelet. Add 1/4 of an avocado, which contains the healthy fats that enable your body to absorb more vitamins and nutrients, and spinach, which has been shown to reduce blood pressure and inflammation.

If you're squeezing in a workout on your lunch break, sip on some chocolate milk. It might sound crazy, but it contains water to rehydrate you, calcium for your bones, as well as protein and carbs to prevent the loss of muscle mass. 

For dinner after a night class, consider making salmon with quinoa. The bioactive peptides in salmon can help to aid your joints and lower inflammation, according to Fitness magazine.

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