While eating clean, balanced meals is a great way to supplement any exercise regime, when you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense to fuel up for yoga the same way you would for a long run. Curious as to what kind of foods do make sense to eat before and after different kinds of fitness, we asked trainers and nutritionists what they recommend.
(*Spin junkies, take note! This applies to you, too.)
Before: Going through some heavy digestion while hitting the pavement is not particularly ideal, so try not to have a full meal within a few hours of your jog. But if you’re craving a little fuel, nutritionist Kimberly Snyder recommends avocado toast as an ideal pre-workout snack. “When running, you need to give your body carbs to burn,” she says. “And the avocados provide you with a valuable healthy fat that gives you an energetic boost when carbohydrate depletion occurs.” Then, to put some additional zip in your step, try a caffeine boost. “Black coffee stimulates adrenaline for a more intense or longer running session,” says nutritionist Dana James. “The research on this has been around since the ’70s and it’s still valid today.”
After: Once the sweat sesh is over, it’s about replenishing those nutrients you lost. Larry Twohig, the founder of Culture Fitness in New York City, recommends a simple, balanced meal with salmon, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates as the best way to go about this. Another option is a carefully crafted smoothie—James advises to include papaya, coconut milk, and bee pollen. “This clever combination helps to restore glycogen levels whilst improving immunity,” she says.
High-Intensity Interval Training
Before: Consider the word “intense” in High-Intensity Interval Training it’s quick, but those few minutes really put your body through the wringer. It means that fueling up with efficient energy beforehand is crucial. “Nuts and seeds are high in fiber and cover all your macronutrient bases, such as carbs, proteins, and fat, to keep you satisfied and energized,” says Snyder. “You can also try about ½ cup of oatmeal, which will give you a quick boost of energy for a great workout.” If you’re strapped for time or reserving your energy for your HIIT session, a minimally processed fruit and nut bar is a decent alternative. “The point is getting accessible carbohydrates as a pre-workout booster,” says Stanley.
After: Say it with us: “Protein, protein, protein.” “Without sufficient protein, you will not get as much payoff for your hard work,” warns Stanley, since muscles need adequate replenishment in order to repair themselves (which in turn makes you more toned). This replenishment also comes in the form of glycogen, which is their main source of fuel. You’ll kill two birds with quinoa, says Snyder, since the carbohydrates will help restore glycogen levels but it’s also chock full of protein. Add an extra protein boost with eggs and add some veggies to keep things balanced.
Before: When you are in a headstand with a full belly, it is hard to be zen,” says Equinox trainer Susan Stanley. With that in mind, it’s best to stick to water beforehand though you can make it coconut water if you’re headed to Bikram, says James, since the electrolytes it contains will replenish those lost through excessive sweat.
After: It’s important to refuel, but keep the zen feeling going by choosing a light but wholesome snack. Snyder recommends a green smoothie chock full of greens, celery, pear, apple, and banana. “It’s filled with complex carbohydrates, amino acids (the building blocks of protein), vitamins, and minerals, but it moves easily through your system and digests thoroughly so it won’t weigh you down,” she says, and also notes that veggies and hummus have a similar effect if you feel like chewing rather than sipping. James notes that you can also swap that hummus for mashed avocado. “It’s loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants and prolongs that super virtuous feeling post yoga,” she says.
Before: Though it’s obviously more slow and steady than a high-octane HIIT workout, strength training is similarly taxing on the body and thus requires a similar method of fueling up. “Half a banana or a tablespoon of almond butter will give you a boost of energy that won’t weigh you down,” advises Snyder. “Bananas are especially great since they are filled with complex carbs, minerals, potassium, and fiber.” James also recommends supplementing this with L-Carnitine, an amino acid that athletes often rely on to maximize their workouts. “It helps shuttle fat into the energy-producing component of the cell to be burnt as fuel, and gives an extra burst of energy,” she explains.
After: Again, protein. “Those in a strength training program definitely have greater protein needs than yogis or endurance athletes,” says Stanley. “It is especially important to have protein to help structures heal, and particularly to help repair muscles so that they can grow in strength or size.” A smoothie with whey or plant-based protein powder is a way to amp up your post-workout recovery. Snyder recommends hydrating first with some coconut water, before blending up a combination of almond milk, brown rice protein powder, chia seeds, acai, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. “It’s super-filling and will replenish your body of amino acids,” she says. “The chia seeds supply protein, fiber, Omega 3 fats, minerals, and long-burning fuel, while acai provides a lot of natural energy.” Important when a workout leaves you completely jelly-fied!