Whether you’re looking to work on your summer body or simply seeking self improvement, exercise can be one of the most rewarding things for both your mental and physical health. However, one of the most difficult parts about working out can be choosing healthy options to eat before and after. It can be extremely discouraging when you finally get to the gym only to feel run down by what you ate prior. It can be equally as frustrating to finish a great workout only to be stuck not knowing what to eat and eventually choosing something unhealthy. As a solution, here are some of the easiest and tastiest pre- and post-workout snacks that will help you get the most out of exercise.
The first thing I consider when choosing a pre-workout snack is how it will make me feel when I start exercising. I generally turn to light options that I know will keep my hunger at bay as well as keep me feeling energized for an hour or two.
1. Protein/nutrition bars:
This one may seem fairly obvious when looking at pre-workout snacks. Nevertheless, I still find that grabbing a bar on my way out the door is the most convenient and reliable option. In order to make sure you are picking the most beneficial nutrition bars, it’s always important to look at the ingredients beforehand. Many popular brands coat their bars in sugar or high-fructose corn syrup which actually works against your body when you go to exercise. Some of my personal favorites are RXBars, Lärabars and GoMacro bars simply because they all taste great and have very minimal and clean ingredients.
2. Iced coffee with almond milk:
While this one is not technically a “snack,” it is a necessity to my pre-workout routine. I have always been a coffee advocate and enthusiast, but over the years I have found it is a great way to keep my energy up in my workouts. In order to not feel weighed down, I make sure that I drink mostly black coffee with just a splash of almond milk. I personally prefer iced over hot coffee before I begin a workout.
3. Banana with nut butter:
Bananas are a great source of potassium and they are vital in avoiding muscle cramps before a lengthy cardio session. One of my go-to snacks before I exercise is a banana with nut butter of your choice. I usually go with almond butter, but any natural peanut butter, sunflower seed butter or cashew butter is equally as satisfying. I strongly advise making sure you pick one with only nuts in the ingredients considering many name brands include extra ingredients like palm oil, cane sugar or corn syrup solids.
If you are craving something sweet before your next workout, this is one of the most guilt-free options that will satisfy your craving. I like to choose brands of granola that contain minimal ingredients such as rolled oats, dried fruit, nuts or seeds. At the moment, my personal favorite is Nature’s Path’s organic dark chocolate and red berry granola. You can choose to eat it over milk like cereal or just straight out of the bag.
In contrast to my pre-workout options, I like to take advantage of more substantial snacks eating following my workouts in order to best re-energize my body. Most of the following options are high carbs and protein to aid in muscle recovery.
1. Dried fruit and nuts:
One of the most simple snacks to enjoy after a workout is fruit and nut mixes. I personally love the combination of almonds and dried cranberries. It’s equally beneficial to enjoy just one or the other. Raw and unsalted almonds or dried mangoes are great snacks to keep on hand as well.
2. Rice cake with nut butter:
After burning lots of calories, it is extremely important to get healthy carbs and fats. A great way of doing so is spreading nut butter of your choice on a rice cake. Although rice cakes are fairly light, they manage to keep you feeling full and quickly satisfy hunger. Nut butter is also a great source of protein as well as fat that can aid in muscle gain. You can also choose to add sliced fruit on top for more flavor.
3. Whole wheat toast with avocado:
Who doesn’t love avocado toast? Fortunately, this trendy snack also has great nutritious value following a workout. One of the best things about this option is it is completely customizable. You can choose to stick with the classic mashed avocado over toasted bread or you can add toppings like sliced tomato, seasoning, balsamic drizzle and many more. My favorite is adding a pinch of pink Himalayan salt and Sriracha on top. When choosing your bread, I advise looking at whole grain or whole wheat options. Ezekiel bread can be found at most grocery stores and contains purely sprouted grains.
4. Hummus and vegetables:
Hummus is not only one of my favorite ways to make eating veggies more exciting but also a great source of protein. Sabra is a company that provides a wide variety of different flavors of their classic hummus. Each of their options pairs well with bell peppers, baby carrots, celery and cucumber.
5. Smoothie bowl:
If I’m looking for a meal after a workout, my absolute favorite option is making a smoothie bowl. Surprisingly enough, you don’t have to drop excessive amounts of cash to get your hands on an açaí bowl. I have found that the easiest way to make your own bowl at home is to purchase frozen açaí packets and blend them with water or milk. I always choose to add a scoop of vegan protein powder and a handful of spinach or kale in my bowls for extra nutrition. Some of my favorite toppings include granola, sliced fruit, cacao nibs, almond butter and agave syrup. If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, a smoothie is always a great option as well.
Next time you find yourself at a loss for ideas on what to eat before or after a workout, make sure to refer to some of these choices. It’s just as important to keep your body properly fueled as it is to exercise!
Paige Holloway is a Communication and Sociology major as well a write and assistant editor for On the Menu. Her interests include fitness, traveling and drinking iced coffee.