Just as eating well is about so much more than the calories you take in, fitness is about so much more than just how many calories you burn. And having variety in your workouts will help shape and tone your body – but it’s also great to eat the right kind of food, depending on what kind of class you take.
Whether you’re lifting, sprinting, stretching or lengthening, what – and when – you eat is essential to getting the full benefit of your workouts. Here’s how to best fuel and refuel from your favorite classes.
Two Hour Before Class: Your body needs this window to start breaking down the proteins into amino acids so that it may store them for use (read: rebuilding muscle) later. Aim to have 1 part protein to 3 parts carbohydrates, which your body burns to put the power behind the muscles’ movements. Look for foods with all of the essential amino acids (hempseed, buckwheat, quinoa, chia, rice and beans, fish, eggs or poultry) paired with salad or cooked vegetables. MacroBars are also a great pre-made option, as they contain a great ratio of fats, protein and carbohydrates.
An Hour After Class: Have a snack with protein and carbohydrates at your next regular meal post-workout. It’s not essential to eat immediately after strength training to build muscle, although you may wish to refuel with something small right afterwards for energy. Protein gives the body additional useable protein to rebuild its tissues without having to resort to breaking down your existing muscle. Adding some carbohydrates post-workout will also replenish your liver’s glycogen stores, which means more energy for later. Try quinoa with dried cranberries and goat cheese or a hardboiled egg with avocado.
Thirty Minutes to an Hour Before Your Class: Give your body a kickstart of energy in the form of complex carbohydrates. Including fat and protein will help slow down the rate at which the body burns off this fuel, meaning you’ll stay energized longer. Try a premade whole grain cereal like Cocomama to-go packets, scrambled eggs and fruit, or a smoothie containing beets (they contain a compound that increases nitric oxide in blood, meaning more oxygen flow to your muscles).
Two Hours After Your Class: Hydrating is the most important thing you can do after a sweaty cardio workout. Drink plain water or try coconut water for the extra electrolytes. Refuel in the first two hours after your workout with a carbohydrate-rich snack: hummus and veggies, apple and sweet potato, or whole grain pasta with veggies.
Two Hour Before Your Class: In high-intensity interval training, your body requires the muscle sustaining fuel from protein in addition to the high amounts of energy provided in complex carbohydrates. Have a protein meal within 2-3 hours of your workout, and then a snack containing carbohydrates 30-60 minutes before class begins. For proteins, think eggs, yogurt, hemp, soy, fish, chicken or lentils. To combine both macronutrients in one, think fruit-and-nut bars like Larabar or a shake with hemp protein, berries and coconut milk.
One to Two Hours Before Your Class: Aim to schedule your next regular meal within an hour or two of your HIIT workout to replenish your energy and help the body begin to rebuild torn muscle fiber. Incorporate protein and carbohydrates, just as you would with strength training. A quinoa bowl with veggies and tempeh or lentils will refill your body’s glycogen stores while providing protein, antioxidants and hydration.
Two Hours Before Your Class: Hydration is essential to any form of exercise where muscles are lengthened or stretched to flush toxins from the system. A great foundation is to ensure you regularly drink 8+ glasses of water daily. When it comes to food, look for light options like fruit or yogurt, with or without granola: these provide ample energy without too much bulk. Give your body at least half an hour to digest before class so you won’t find yourself inverted and nauseous.
One Hour After Your Class: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate with water and look for fruits and veggies with high water content, like peaches, pears, spinach, celery and cucumber. You might also consider hummus with cucumber and tomatoes veggies for carbs, protein and hydration.
One Hour Before Your Class: All of those micro movements require a great deal of fuel, so power up an hour before your workout with lasting carbohydrates (cereal, oats or your favorite whole grain) with nuts and cinnamon. Bonus: cinnamon’s compounds will preemptively calm inflammation.
One Hour After Your Class: Help your body repair those tiny muscles tears with foods high in protein: a spirulina smoothie or omelets are great options.