Working out takes strength and energy, and that requires fuel from the things you eat. Grabbing just anything that’s convenient won’t meet your body’s needs. It won’t help you get the most from your workout either. That’s why it’s important to think ahead and plan your pre- and post-workout meals.

Determine Your Goals

Pre-workout, you want food that’s going to give you fast energy and endurance. That means eating a balance of carbs for immediate energy and protein for building muscle. Food combinations that can provide both include fruit and vegetable smoothies, whole grains and peanut butter, yogurt, and fruit-and-nut trail mix or energy bars.

Post-workout, it’s important to rehydrate, restore muscles, and replenish nutrients. The meal should be primarily protein with some carbs. Eggs, oatmeal, chicken and rice, tuna and crackers, and chocolate milk are considered good post-workout foods.

Get Key Nutrients

Protein, carbs, and some fats are not the only nutrition your body needs for working out. Key nutrients such as vitamins and minerals are also essential. Vitamin D aids muscle growth and works together with calcium and magnesium for strength. Calcium is a critical nutrient for your bones. Vitamins C and E work as antioxidants to help your body get rid of free radicals, which are toxins that sometimes build up during workouts.

Electrolytes are also important and can be found in foods and drinks containing potassium and salt. Orange juice, tomatoes, potatoes, and bananas are all good sources of electrolytes. Many sports drinks are specially formulated to both hydrate and replace electrolytes.

Be Prepared

Foods such as potato chips, cookies, and French fries are convenient and may satisfy your initial need for energy, but these are high in sugar and salt and have little nutritive value. That’s why it’s important to plan in advance when you’re heading for the gym and have plenty of fresh foods on hand.

Fresh fruit such as oranges, bananas, and apples are also convenient and easy to toss into your workout bag. You can buy berries, separate them into portion-sized plastic bags and freeze them too. By the time you’re finished with your workout, they’ll be ready to eat. For protein, nuts, tuna pouches, and beef jerky make good portable post-workout foods.

To fuel your body for a workout or restore its balance afterward, you need the right combination of food and nutrients. With a little forethought, you can put together a meal plan for your workout routine that supports your fitness goals. What a way to support the overall health and strength of your body!

For more foods that can enhance your workout performance, check out this article here!