The best and worst workout foods

What you should eat to fuel up before you exercise and to regain lost nutrients post-workout

Eating the proper foods before and after working out is just as important as the workout itself. You can cut the time it takes to see results with a little extra planning. Eat healthy meals and snacks every 2-3 hours – that may sound like a lot of eating but when your body is properly fueled it becomes an efficient fat-burning machine (who doesn’t want that!) Kirsten Bustamante, personal trainer and owner of Stretch Fitness Boutique  in Toronto shares the top five best and worst foods to eat before and after your workout. Learn how you can make a few small changes that will make a great difference in your results.

Best foods to eat up to 2 hours before a workout
Try to avoid anything that’s high in fat, high in only fibre or protein, or a heavy meal. Your body will have a difficult time breaking down those foods fast enough and may leave you feeling sluggish. Stick with something simple and yes, eat carbs. Carbohydrates are easily broken down and used as energy for your workout.

    * 1 small piece of fruit, such as a banana
    * Homemade fruit smoothie (1/4 cup of plain low fat yogourt, 1 handful of fresh fruit and 1/2 cup of low sugar fruit juice blended with a few ice cubes)
    * 1/2 whole wheat bagel with 2 tbsp light cream cheese
    * Yogourt and fresh berries
    * Veggies and low-fat dip

Worst foods to eat up to 2 hours before a workout
Avoid high-calorie snacks and bad carbs with a high glycemic index.

    * Candy, chocolate bars and all the high sugary snacks
    * A meat-heavy meal
    * A high protein-only shake or bar
    * A handful of nuts
    * An omelette or scrambled eggs with cheese (don’t even think about adding ham or bacon)

Best foods to eat 15-30 minutes post-workout
Make sure you have something to eat or drink within 30 minutes. Your snack should include both proteins and carbohydrates because there is a small window of time post-workout (about 20-45 minutes) when the body is able to break down these foods quicker to replenish and repair the muscles. After that window of time expires, the body breaks down food more slowly at almost half the rate and the muscle repair is less effective. After your snack, follow up with a well-rounded meal 1-2 hours after.

    * A cold glass of milk/chocolate milk
    * A protein shake containing up to 10 percent carbohydrates
    * A small bowl of whole grain cereal with skim or partly skimmed milk
    * A sports drink such as a Gatorade or Propel
    * A plain cup of yogourt with fresh fruit

The worst foods to have 15-30 minutes post-workout
The worst thing you can do is wait too long after your workout to eat. Always try and have something immediately after your workout, and remember to keep it simple so that your body can metabolize the food quickly. Try to avoid the items below especially since many of them offer little nutritional value to your diet and will not help re-fuel your body properly after a calorie-burning workout.

    * High fat foods, such as fried food, burgers or pizza
    * Handful of plain nuts
    * Candy or chocolate
    * Bacon and eggs
    * Coffee and doughnuts