There are two primary parts to living a healthy lifestyle that keeps you fit and trim for as many years as possible: healthy food and exercise. One without the other is much less effective overall. So if you live an active lifestyle, how do you change your diet to accommodate it?

There isn’t a one-and-done answer to this that you can take seriously. But there are basic guidelines and meal suggestions that you can use when you eat before and after physical activity during the day.

Healthy Eating Before and After Exercising

It isn’t recommended to eat less than 30 minutes before taking part in strenuous exercise. Some research suggests waiting an hour after you eat to exercise. If you feel the need to fuel your workout, we recommend eating something high in carbohydrates, low in fat, with a moderate amount of protein. But if you eat more than two hours before your workout, try eating something higher in protein and carbs and low in fat.

After exercise, your body is in a prime receptive mode, using its resources much more efficiently for 30 to 60 minutes after activity. So it’s important to eat something within that timeframe to help your body bounce back from the workout faster. At this point, you want something high in both protein and carbohydrates. Even your fat content can be slightly higher since your body will quickly burn it as energy.

Foods to Eat Before Exercise

Pre-workout, focus on things like fruits, oats, and eggs. Bananas are packed with carbs and potassium that support your muscles and help prevent muscle cramps. Oats are full of fiber and give you a store of carbs that gradually release as you burn through calories. Adding dried fruit to oatmeal gives you a vitamin boost and is a good source of easily digestible carbs.

Here are suggestions:

  • Fruit smoothies
  • Greek yogurt and granola
  • Bananas
  • Apples with peanut butter and raisins
  • Chicken with a mix of rice and vegetables
  • Scrambled eggs and avocado toast
  • Oatmeal with fruit

What to eat after exercise

Post-workout meals should be a bit heartier to support recovery. Protein sources like chicken, eggs, tuna, and salmon help your muscles heal and build faster. Not getting enough protein after a workout will only slow you down. It is recommended to take in 0.14 to 0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight within an hour after your workout. Sweet potato, oats, and fruits keep that carbohydrate supply going strong for a now-healing body as well.

Here are suggestions:

  • Chicken with a mix of rice and vegetables
  • Tuna salad sandwich or tuna on crackers
  • Oatmeal with whey protein and fruit
  • Omelet with an avocado spread
  • Salmon and sweet potato

Although your specific exercise needs and food intake will vary (sometimes dramatically) from person to person, everyone’s body similarly synthesizes food. Use these guidelines and suggested meals and snacks to help you work out stronger, more efficiently, and bounce back faster from each activity.