Building a better you requires a multi-front approach. It’s not enough to just hit the gym on a regular basis — you need to back your work up with proper nutrition. Between meals and before, during, and after workouts, you can indulge in delicious yet healthy snacks that help you stay on course with your fitness goals.
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but eating apples and other fruit can also keep you fit on your own. Snacking on fresh fruit throughout the day is a great way to stay energized without leaning on sugary drinks or unhealthy, processed snacks. Fruit is a particularly useful treat if you’re gearing up to put in some time at the gym.
The American Heart Association recommends saving your pre-workout snacks for two hours before. This helps with digestion as eating too soon before a workout can leave you feeling more lethargic. But if you’re in a pinch and need a quick punch, the AHA recommends fruit like an apple or banana since they’re easier to digest.
It’s also important you set aside some sweetness for your post-workout snack. Nutrition consultant and registered dietitian Riska Platt tells the AHA you’ll want to eat carbs after your workout to help with muscle recovery. Combining an apple or banana with peanut butter doubles your benefits, ensuring you get protein that helps stimulate muscle growth.
You may have your own preference as far as how much you snack and how close you do it to your workout. But there’s one thing you cannot debate — it’s critical you’re well-hydrated when you exercise. WebMD Director of Nutrition Kathleen M. Zelman recommends having at least two to three cups of water before you work out, and drinking another half-cup or cup for every 15-20 minutes of exercise.
If you want to maximize your water intake, you can use it as the basis for a post-workout shake. Stir in your flavored or unflavored protein powder of choice, and you’ve got a drink that keeps you hydrated and helps with muscle repair and growth. You can also opt for flavored sports beverages, but be mindful of sugar and other unwanted ingredients.
Another great way to refuel after a workout? Chocolate milk. Zelman notes chocolate milk offers a roughly four-to-one carbs-to-protein ratio and is 90% water, making it ideal for covering several bases at once.
If you want a good pre-workout snack, turn to a childhood classic. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich isn’t just comforting — it’s a great way to get a boost of energy before you head to the gym. This beloved lunchbox staple offers a nice balance of carbohydrates, heart-healthy fat, and protein that work together to propel you through your workout.
Prefer to skip the bread? No problem. Peanut butter on its own is a widely recommended pre-exercise snack because it’s filling, rich in good fats and protein, and provides a nice boost of natural energy. And according to Zelman, research even shows eating peanuts can help with weight management.
For those with peanut allergies, you can enjoy similar pre- and post-workout benefits with alternatives like almond butter, soy-based butter, or even tahini.
Taking care of yourself goes even further beyond nutrition and exercise. Be sure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep, taking time for self-care, and staying on top of your body’s needs by keeping an open line with your primary care physician.