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Working Out- exercise and the food you pair it with

I know there was a post a while back about good exercise fuel, but I just wanted to expand the topic a little bit... I'm training for a half-marathon in the spring and I was wondering what everyone's favorite food is when they're exercising- and how/when they eat it- and by this I mean to be pretty broad. Some questions to get your mind rolling:

-What is your favorite pre-workout meal or snack? How often do you find you have to wait before working out? How soon after a workout do you need to eat? What tastes/feels good?
-What sorts of foods do you really crave when you're getting back in shape?
-Any foods you find don't sit well with you when you're working out a lot?
-Best rewarding dinners (or brunches?) What is really satisfying to you after a good workout?

For example, I just discovered these great little apple-carrot fruit sauce packets from trader joe's- they're only about 80 calories and I find that if I have one about 5 minutes before I head out on a run, I have great energy. I've also been craving sweet carbs like pancakes and syrup- a LOT! And apples have been upsetting my stomach, especially before a workout- I think it's the fiber.

Just thought I'd gather some good ideas to keep me going- being able to eat a lot of food is clearly my real motivation...

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  1. I never eat before a workout. Even on marathon day, I don't eat beforehand (although I make sure I have a good meal the night before).

    I don't know if there is anything I crave necessarily after a workout, although nothing beats a McDonald's milkshake washed down with a couple of Filet-O-Fish sandwiches ...

    But if I'm being good, after a workout I usually like to refuel with some combo of bananas, yogurt, and eggs in one form or another.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      i'm the same way - i can NEVER eat before a run. even marathons or close to it.

      i had a trainer that suggested eating sweet potato before working out, but i could never do it.

      I generally throw down a protein shake afterwards; that or i make an egg white omelette, with mushrooms, onions and tomatoes (i know they're not the easiest to break down), and some fruit.

      i also discovered these freeze-dried fruits
      http://www.crispygreen.com
      LOVE them!

    2. For me the one of the biggest factors is the time of day that I'm working out. Most days I hit the gym or trails after work, my standard "after school snack" is a small apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter. On days that I exercise in the morning (weekends mostly) I have a small bowl of cereal w/ soy milk. Either way I try to have an hour between eating and exercising.

      I'm definitely an exercise to eat kind of person :) My biggest food cravings are cinnamon and salt. I can't run anywhere fast or far enough to justify the daily cinnabon or bag of kettle chips I would love to have, so I stick with cinnamon life and pretzels.

      1. Oddly enough, when I'm working out a lot - 4-5 full body workouts w/ cardio as well as the pilates I usually do 3 times a week - I find myself craving foods that are healthier in general: lean proteins like chicken and turkey, cruciferous veggies, vegetables in general, LOTS of salad, SPINACH, salmon, and processed carbs are just not appealing although sushi and taco truck tacos are the exception. :) I get one of these bugs in my butt about once a year, it lasts for about 5 months and then I see the results and slowly begin to regress to the full-body workouts w/ cardio twice a week plus pilates to just the pilates. As my working out gets looser, as does the diet (Tapas and wine on a Thursday night? SURE! Why not...). It's an evil cycle.

        I try not to eat a meal less than 3 hours before I workout because it leaves me feeling very sluggish, however, I am usually ravenous ¾ of the way through which is added motivation to get through my routine. I do the big workouts in the evenings/night, so this is what a typical day looks like: breakfast - yogurt with blueberries or raspberries and recently I discovered Trader Joe's ground flaxseed with blueberries (a heaping teaspoon goes a long way); lunch – big salad with either a good-sized portion of chicken breast or some grilled salmon or avocado; snacks - a piece of fruit (often a banana), a dried fruit/nut granola bar type thing, or some laughing cow on ryveta crackers at the most an hour before working out; and finally dinner: veggies/salad plus protein, glass of wine, small piece of dark chocolate after. My favorite dinner is grilled salmon over a fairly big mixed green salad with tomatoes, carrots, grilled onions/eggplant/asparagus with balsamic vinaigrette. I could and have eaten this 3 nights in a row. Weekends are for being (relatively) bad: eating out and drinking with friends and Sunday mornings especially are for big brunches with poached eggs, salty meat products, and buttered toast, although I refuse to give up coffee and wine during the week. Sorry, just not happening.

        Easy things that I have around for quick energy that don’t have that too-full effect: turkey jerky, hard-boiled eggs, celery w/ soft cheese (laughing cow and Roquefort are my fav), nuts… Costco has these organic fruit and nut bars (not the chewy Quaker bars) that I am totally addicted to that I’m sure have some downside, but I am making a conscious effort to avoid investigating…

        Disclaimer (not meant to be rude, just avoid any lecturing): This is what I do personally, which is not to say that anyone else should do it and I know where I could improve, I just don’t plan on it. :)

        5 Replies
        1. re: adrienne156

          where do you get your turkey jerky? i tried trader joe's turkey jerky and it was inedible... so gross.

          1. re: CoryKatherine

            TJ's turkey jerky IS really bad! A lot like shoe leather. I was totally surprised...

            I get my turkey jerky at two places - either from a friend who smokes things regularly (he's a paramedic trying to get picked up by a fire department and someone told him that being able to cook well would help... I'm reaping the benefits) or Costco. The Costco stuff isn't the greatest - the teriyaki flavor a bit strong - but, that keeps me from eating more than a piece or two which I would do normally cuz I love jerky and the texture is usually very good.

            1. re: adrienne156

              I love TJ's Turkey Jerky! It's so much better than the Whole Foods Brand, or for that matter any other brand I have tried at Whole Foods or Ralphs - much easier to chew I find.

          2. re: adrienne156

            Its funny how you say you crave healthier foods when you work out. This last year has probably been my least physically active of my life and I have eaten more potato chips and other food that for some reason I craved, despite not really enjoying.

            About time to stop sitting around.

            Before I work out I also do not usually eat anything significant, I just drink some water

          3. i eat some carbs about an hour before i lift (usually pasta) and then some portein about 1/2 an hour after my workout (either a supplement or some eggs).

            1. There's a diff between being able to eat a lot of food and being able to take in sufficient calories during an extended workout or event. I'm a cyclist who thinks it's worth getting into lycra for less than 40 miles, and I find that during a workout or event, I can't eat anything that requires processing, not even bars.

              My standard breakfast is a nuked potato with butter and Parmesan (the fat slows absorption of the carbs) because they have a particularly accessible form of carbs--I'd imagine apples don't process as quickly. I also have a little something fast-acting right when I start--juice, a gel--because otherwise, I blow through glycogen too quickly, before my system warms up. While riding, I take in about 200 calories per hour, in small doses every ten - fifteen minutes. My post-ride meals are within an hour of finishing and always include lots of protein.

              Running requires different strategies, though--as a cyclist, I can carry a ton of food and water with me. The biggest thing is, figure out your food and water plan LONG before the event--don't try anything new on the day of, including whatever they're handing out on the course!