Fitness and nutrition go hand and hand for good health. Making good food choices everyday will enhance our efforts during exercise sessions. Often, I am asked for suggestions regarding what to eat before or after a personal training sessions or group fitness class. Consulting with a dietician, nutritionist, or family doctor is a good idea for an individualized plan. Here I discuss some general guidelines that apply to most people.
The goal prior to exercise is to provide the body with fuel and hydration to sustain the workout session. Hydration is one of the most important tools to prevent muscular fatigue, overheating, and cramping of muscles. Stay hydrated throughout the day by consistently consuming water, non-caffeinated teas or coffee, smoothies, fruits and vegetables. Include water in your pre-exercise meal/snack and use a water bottle to stay hydrated during the workout. Our hour or more before fitness consume whole foods rich in complex carbs and a little protein, and keep the meal light on fats which can make us feel sluggish.
Following exercise, consume foods that will help you recover, rehydrate, refuel, and build muscle. Include a protein source, and fats can also be part of this meal. You don’t need special powders, but focus on real, whole foods and plenty of fluid. What are real, whole foods? Try to choose foods that have one ingredient, and prepare foods from scratch when possible. Examples of one ingredient foods are apples, almonds, oatmeal, rice, potatoes, beans, carrots. No long list of unpronounceable ingredients. Combine foods yourself so you know what goes in, when it was made, and how long stored. Do we really know all of this with packaged goods? Try the granola recipe below. This granola on its own, or with some milk or yogurt, can be a pre or post exercise food choice.
Each person has slightly different needs, so check in with yourself as to how you feel with various timing and food choices.
Healthy Granola Recipe:
- 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 ½ cup raw nuts and/or seeds (I use about equal amounts of whole almonds, slivered almonds, and sunflower seeds)
- 3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup melted coconut oil
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- optional 1/2 cup dried fruit, added after cooking (I use raisins)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts and/or seeds, salt and cinnamon. Stir to blend.
2. Pour in the oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Mix well. Pour the granola onto your prepared pan and spread it in an even layer. Bake until golden, about 21 minutes, stirring halfway. The granola will further crisp up as it cools.
3. Let the granola cool completely, undisturbed, before breaking it into pieces and stirring in the dried fruit. Store the granola in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks, or in a sealed freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months.