efore you start exercising, you want something to power you up without weighing you down. And 20 minutes after you finish, you feel ravenous enough to devour everything in sight. But what, exactly, should you eat?
One starting point that’s true for all of us: Carbs boost energy. “They’re essential for the fit woman,” says sports nutritionist Heidi Skolnik. If you don’t have enough carbs in your system when you start ramping up your workout, Skolnik says you could quickly lose steam. Worse, your body, in its desperation, may eventually start breaking down muscles and tissues for fuel. Try simple carbs: They’re easy to convert into energy and won’t disrupt your GI system (or your pace).
After your workout, you’ll need to replenish your depleted energy stores and add protein to repair muscles, says Skolnik—especially if you worked them with weights or in a HIIT class.
We asked experts to recommend the best snacks (150 to 200 calories) for different activities. One caveat: You may not need a snack before and after every workout. If you’ve finished a meal within the last two hours—or if, say, you’re heading to dinner after you stretch and shower, it’s fine to skip the snack. But don’t expect to slay a killer workout on an empty stomach, Skolnik warns. Your body needs fuel—and when it gets what it needs, it can do incredible things.