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Exercise & Eating: When & what you should eat before and after working out

Consumer Reports looks at the carb-to-protein ratio and the timing.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Whether you’re a daily exerciser, an elite athlete, or a weekend warrior, getting the right nutrition is key. But maybe you’re wondering about the age-old question: Should you eat before or after exercise? And what should you eat? Consumer Reports breaks down how to fuel your body to get the most from your workouts.

"Yes, eating a big meal right before a workout isn’t a good idea. But if it has been more than a couple of hours, a small snack about an hour before exercise can give you energy," said Kevin Loria, Consumer Reports Health Editor.

A good rule is to aim for 20 to 30 grams of carbs and 5 to 10 grams of protein, like a banana with peanut butter, a hard-boiled egg with toast, or string cheese and a granola bar.

High-fat or high-fiber foods could take longer to digest, so it’s best to stay away from them before a workout.

Eating AFTER exercise is a must. That’s when the body’s cells are primed to absorb carbs and protein.

"After long, intense workouts, your body may start using muscle for fuel, causing muscle loss. Eating within 40 minutes after cardio or strength training restores fuel stores and supports muscle recovery," said Loria. 

Many nutritionists recommend post-workout meals that have a 2-to-1 carb-to-protein ratio to restore the energy burned. 2WTK looked up examples and found ideas for you whether you work out early or late in the day. Check out FeastGood.

And always drink enough fluids before, during, and after your workout. That’s at least 17 to 20 ounces of water 2 hours before exercising and even more if it’s very hot outside, and another 7 to 10 ounces for every 10 to 20 minutes of exercise.

Along with drinking water, loading up on fruits and vegetables with high water content, like melons, cabbage, and apples, can also help you stay hydrated.

    

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