There are plenty of quick and easy options for pre- and post-workout food. These days you can’t pick up a magazine or turn on the TV without seeing an advertisement for nutritional shakes or bars. But when you are in a rush, what is really the best choice before and after your workout? You want food that is healthy, packed with protein, and delicious, and if it has other helpful properties, more’s the better.

Here are a few ways to perk up your before and after workout food snacks. 

If your normal workout is in the morning and you reach for cereal bars or protein shakes, or maybe a whole-grain toaster waffle or a yogurt, you aren’t far off the mark. Wouldn’t it be nice to try something new though? Starting from the simplest to a bit more complex, you can try:

  • Whole grain toast with nut butter and banana slices: Includes protein, soluble fiber, and potassium.
  • Oatmeal: Made the night before; add one cup of water or milk to 1/2 cup of oats, nuts, sweetener of your choice, cinnamon, dried fruit, and flax seeds and put in the fridge. Heat for 30 seconds in the microwave in the morning. Switch up the fruits, nuts, and spices for variety. Good protein, soluble fiber, antioxidants, and pain-relieving properties depending on what you add.
  • Quiches: Make egg-white quiches with spinach, garlic, feta cheese, and onion in muffin tins the night before, then heat quickly or eat at room temperature. Also great after workout and has protein and fiber!
  • Homemade smoothies with oats and tart cherry juice: Tart cherry juice has the same anti-inflammatory properties as ibuprofen and is delicious in a quick smoothie with orange juice, frozen bananas, and oats. Filling but not heavy, with protein and fiber.

All of the above suggestions have infinite variations only limited by your taste preferences and creativity.

After your workout, you may need something more substantial, but the last thing you need is something heavy, greasy, or unhealthy.

Before you reach for any food, though, drink at least 16 ounces of room temperature water to re-hydrate. Stay away from fancy fitness drinks or water with vitamins. Plain water re-hydrates, and your lunch will supply the rest. If you normally eat a sandwich or plain green salad, here are some other foods to try:

  • Directly after your workout, try a handful of almonds for their stress-relieving properties and protein.
  • Black bean salad: This is easy, easy, easy. One can of black beans, rinsed and drained, one can of corn, drained, chopped green pepper, chopped red pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Tons of protein and fiber, antioxidants in the peppers, and omega 3s in the olive oil. Vinegar is a digestive aid also. You can’t miss with it!
  • Edamame caviar salad: Mix one cup shelled edamame, one can black beans, rinsed, one can garbanzo beans, rinsed, one cup of chopped green or red pepper, ½ cup chopped red onion, a handful of chopped parsley, and rice wine vinegar and olive oil to taste. Voila! Tons of protein and parsley is loaded with health benefits!
  • Salad in a jar: Made the night before and stored in the fridge. Layer with dressing on the bottom and end with greens at the top of the jar so they stay crisp. Start with a simple honey mustard dressing, then layer peppers, carrots, red onion, radicchio, cooked and cooled quinoa, dried cranberries, walnuts, arugula, and romaine lettuce. Tons of fiber, protein in the quinoa, antioxidants in the veggies, and omega 3s in the walnuts. Low in calories, with long-lasting nutritional benefits!
  • Red meat: Yes, red meat. A grass-fed beef burger with a spinach salad with egg and red onion is great after a strength-training workout and offers plenty of fiber with health fats and protein. Skip the bun, but if you must have fries, substitute baked sweet potato fries for a mood-balancing and anti-oxidant-packed side. Try a refreshing orange juice/seltzer as your drink to help your body absorb the iron more effectively.

Workout food, both before and after, should be fresh, delicious, and packed with nutrients. You can’t find that in a box or a bag, but you can make it easily at home.

What is your favorite food for your workout?

Image by foodswings via Flickr 

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