Workouts are meant to be uplifting, and the feeling after leaving the gym, with sweat dripping off your face, is awesome; however, sometimes it's hard getting through the whole session. Knowing which foods to eat when working out for a greater energy boost can help you maintain your stamina and intensity. Some foods are more beneficial than others, so opting for healthy, stimulating picks over poorer ones will make a huge difference.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients to feel energized during their workouts, motivated, and confident after completing a sweat session. When fatigue is setting in midpoint, it can be hard to keep going (laying on the floor seems so appealing, right?). However, regaining the momentum to push through will help you achieve your goals and feel amazing after. Eating certain foods before, during, and after exercising can really affect your body, metabolism, and recovery, so choosing your meals wisely will help you feel your absolute best. Here are nine foods that you should eat during a workout in order to regain your strength and willpower. You'll power through those last exercises like a star, and have the messy hair and sweat droplets to prove it.
1. Lowfat Chocolate Milk
According to Pamela Nisevich Bede, MS, RD, a sports nutritionist at Abbott, eating protein within 30 minutes of working out can help recovery and "athletes should increase that amount to between 0.55 and 0.77 grams per pound of bodyweight." If you're exercising for longer, it might be worth a bite at this point. Steve Hertzler, PhD, RD, chief scientific officer specializing in sports nutrition at Abbott and a competing athlete, recommends chocolate milk and a banana for a good pairing.
Hertzler recommends eating pretzels, as they can help "replenish electrolytes and minerals lost during exercise." The saltiness will help you regain those balanced levels, as when you're sweating, you're losing those stores. You can pair with Greek yogurt or nut butter for added protein, if need be.
Hertzler recommends eating beets for extra endurance. "By increasing blood flow to and throughout worked muscles, beets’ nitrates may help bodybuilders get the muscle 'pump' they desire during training," Hertzler says. “Nitrates reduce the amount of oxygen needed to perform physical activity,” Hertzler says, and "this places less demand on the cardiorespiratory system to supply oxygen to muscles during physical activity.”
4. Sunflower Butter
“Foods packed with protein, fiber and good fats are essential for maintaining energy during a workout. A quick and easy way to get these nutrients before, during or after a workout is to reach for sunflower butter. Not only is sunflower butter packed with protein and fiber, but it contains more micro nutrients, such as magnesium, Vitamin E and iron, than most nut butters," advises Justin LaGosh, Sales & Marketing Director at SunButter LLC over email with Bustle. "Pair with an apple, banana or celery sticks for a nutritious, hearty snack that won’t weigh you down," LaGosh adds.
5. Snack Bar
"Your body needs quick release fuel, or carbohydrates, to be able to efficiently use the nutrients to keep on going," advises Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT over email with Bustle. "One of my favorite tricks is to cut up a KIND Pressed Strawberry Apple Chia bar. Not only is it filled with filling fruit, but it's also very easy to digest without a significant amount of protein or fat. Your body can easily use the glucose to continue that last rep or mile of your race," Shaw adds.
According to Kacie Vavrek, who's a sports dietitian at OSU Wexner Medical Center, over email with Bustle, "you really only need to eat during a workout if you are exercising for greater than 60-90 minutes. If you are working out for less than 60 minutes, you should be find with only water to hydrate and replace fluid losses. Simple carbohydrates should be the focus when eating during a workout as they are easily digested and provide a quick energy source." A banana is an example, as it's easy to digest.
7. Sports Drink Or Gel
"During endurance exercise sports drinks help to keep you hydrated but also provide a small amount of quick energy from sugar. Sports drinks contain four to eight percent carbohydrates, with electrolytes, which is enough to give you a source of energy and help to preserve stored muscle glycogen but is also small enough that it is not likely to cause any GI discomfort during exercise," advises Vavrek. "In addition, sports drinks also help to replace electrolytes that are lost through sweat during exercise," Vavrek adds.
According to Reebok Trainer Emily Schromm over email with Bustle, having a quick burst of caffeine, can help in that moment of exercise. However, "although caffeine can be an incredible tool for focus and a little kick of energy to crush your workout, changing your meals throughout the day will actually provide you with higher energy levels, better brain function, and quick recovery to get to your goals FAST," Schromm says.
"Fluids are always the go to choice to maintain adequate hydration and deliver energy. Diluted fruit juice (50 percent juice, 50 percent water) is a great energy booster and has the added benefit of natural nutrients from fruit. Try 8-16 oz. for each hour of working out," advises Lanette Kovachi, Subway’s Corporate Dietitian over email with Bustle. "If you are sweating a ton, the average sports drink is also a convenient option for hydration, energy and electrolyte replenishment. If you are set with hydration, other quick and easy-to-eat energy boosters are squeezable fruit (i.e. applesauce and other pureed fruits in a pouch), bananas, apple slices and dried fruit," Kovachi adds.
If you're experiencing a lag in energy, eat or drink one of these ingredients for an immediate boost. You'll be grateful later.