How to Eat for Every Type of Workout

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Tali Pines | April 7, 2016

It’s 11:30 AM on Saturday and you’re leaving a fitness class feeling like you just won a prize for Most Efficient Human on Planet Earth. You’re feeling energized, accomplished and clear, so you want to celebrate the hell out of that by wringing the weekend for every last ounce of opportunity and freedom. But first, you must eat. So, what will you eat?

Many people don’t realize that this should depend entirely on the form of workout in which you just engaged.

Knowing exactly which areas of the body need to be replenished is the best route to a healthy refuel. In non-fitness speak, that is: don’t sully good intentions with a healthy-sounding vegan banana nut muffin that is misleadingly packed with sugar. (Or at least not unintentionally because YOLO, carpe diem and so on and so cookie.)

If you want to squeeze the best results from your exercise, embrace this Cliff Notes guide to five key types of workouts, and what to eat for each:

  • 1. The Class: Spinning

    What Happens: All that cardio = a lot of sweating, which means you have to hydrate the boring way -- with water. (Fun fact for your smile: Water straight from the tap is filled with teeth-whitening fluoride.) For optimal nutrition — and to keep ravenous hunger at bay— drink 16 ounces during class, and 36 more after. Eating water-heavy fruits, such as watermelon, strawberries and grapefruit throughout the day helps, too.

    Eat: Water + complex carb + protein. I suggest a high fiber toast slice with scrambled egg whites and segments from ½ a grapefruit.
  • 2. The Class: Pilates

    What Happens: First, an important pre-workout tip: Don’t eat a big meal ahead of class. Pilates sessions revolve around engaging the core, and heavy duty digestion makes that impossible. After all the one hundreds, though, you’ll need anti-inflammatory nourishment to prevent soreness and alleviate muscle stiffness.

    Eat: Fresh ginger and any fruit that ends in “erry”: cherry, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry. One extra serving of protein — like a single skim string cheese, one tablespoon of almond butter, or (approximately) 3 oz. of fish or chicken — allows your broken down muscles to repair more efficiently.
  • 3. The Class: Yoga

    What Happens: A quality yoga session will connect the physical and the spiritual, which will leave you with a clear mind and limber body. Keep heightened awareness going with a well proportioned plate of whole foods.

    Eat: Fresh vegetables + lean protein + high fiber complex carbohydrates, like for example: sautéed kale and 4 oz fish sprinkled on a ¼ cup bed of quinoa.
  • 4. The Class: Boxing

    What Happens: Boxing is a high intensity workout that requires endurance and strength. In addition to taking in an extra serving of protein, antioxidants — such as Vitamins C, A and E — are crucial after engaging in such high impact activity. Found in berries, nuts, dark green veggies, sweet potatoes, green tea and high fiber whole grains, those antioxidants inhibit cell damage caused by rigorous movement, which means less soreness and injury.

    Eat: 4 oz fish, ½ roasted sweet potato and a side salad sprinkled with ¼ cup crushed toasted almonds.
  • 5. The Class: CrossFit

    What Happens: A mix of cardio, weight training, gymnastics and core work all in one 45-60 minute session, this is an intense full body workout. But that doesn’t mean you should fuel up ahead of time. Since your muscles get their energy from carbohydrates, exercising on an empty stomach forces you body to tap into stored fat instead.

    Eat: You will likely be starving the second you wrap, so plan your meal in advance. It should be high in cruciferous vegetables (cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, beets) so as to increase supply, and keep you feeling full. Have an extra serving of protein (think a layer of skim cheese or an additional 2-3 oz of tofu or turkey) and then wink at yourself in the mirror because why not.

Tali Pines is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in weight loss, lifecycle nutrition, kosher diets and active nutrition. You can follow her on Instagram @talipinesnutrition; photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • Theresa

    More more more of these health-fitness-posts!

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  • How helpful! I never thought about eating anti-inflammatory foods. Good tip.
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  • Life.stylespiration

    Very informative! Now I know exactly what to eat after working out.
    http://www.lifestylespiration.com

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  • when do I eat pizza

  • Esther Levy

    YAS.

  • Sára

    I’m not sure that fluoride in the tap-water is good for you.

  • Mavis

    Interesting info, but…Skim cheese? Egg whites? 🙁 Since science has proven that the fat-is-the-devil and egg-yolks-are-evil myths are patently false, why not enhance our workouts with one sliver of full-flavor joy?

    I love you MR, but I’m kind of in my feelings about this foray into proscriptive diet advice.

  • Maddie

    I don’t know..doesn’t sound like enough calories to replenish your body.