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Expert Answers: Better Pre- and Postworkout Meals

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Postexercise Meal

What should you eat before and after exercising? Our expert offers some options.

Q | Can I eat the same pre- and postexercise meals for all my workouts?

A | Different types of exercise stress your body in different ways, which means your nutrition needs will vary depending on the type of workout you’re doing.

Steady-state cardio — like a long bike ride or run — burns mainly fat for sustained energy. Strenuous workouts, like resistance training and sprints, require carbs for immediate energy. When fueling up pre- and postworkout, you’ll want to replenish the appropriate energy stores. (See below for ideas.)

Regardless of what type of exercise you have planned, eat your last solid-food meal two to four hours before your workout (or opt for liquid options, such as a smoothie). “The goal is to eat something that’s going to stick with you,” says Paul Kriegler, RD/LD, of Life Time Weight Loss in Chanhassen, Minn. “You don’t want to be eating a meal that’s going to skyrocket your blood sugars and then drop them right before your workout.”

Eat your postworkout meal within an hour of exercising to get the most recovery benefits.

If you’re planning a session longer than 90 minutes or cranking through intense intervals, Kriegler suggests supplementing with branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), a mixture of essential amino acids that protect your muscle tissue during hard or long training sessions and help maintain blood-sugar levels. A powdered BCAA supplement mixed in water and consumed 30 minutes before to 30 minutes after a workout is easy to digest and absorb.

Lauren Bedosky is a Minnesota-based health and fitness writer.

Photography by John Mowers

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