I often make the joke that I do cardio so I can eat more, but it’s somewhat true- when you do cardio, you need to eat and refuel your body.
Of course, this isn’t a free pass to eat anything and everything. You should be paying close attention to your pre- and post-workout meals, because these can make a huge difference in your fitness! Even if your goal is to lose weight, you should still enjoy a pre- or post-workout meal so that you can feed those super-sexy muscles we love to build.
Your pre- and post-workout meals will change depending on which type of workout you do, so today we’re focusing on cardio! This type of workout certainly taxes you, especially when you’re doing long runs or HIIT cardio. For example, if you’re doing treadmill sprints, you’ll eat something different than if you were doing a lighter session, such as an incline walk. Both types of workouts are great, but they affect your body a little bit differently, so we can eat different things before or after each one.
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What to eat for low intensity cardio
If you’re taking a long walk, going on a light jog, or doing a steady-state session on the elliptical, you don’t necessarily need to eat something before. Fasted cardio can be very beneficial for fat loss, but certainly don’t skip out on your post-workout meal. If you’re doing this type of cardio later in the day, again, you don’t need to eat anything in particular right before (unless you’re starving, then have a simple snack like 1/2 a banana). Afterwards, eat some protein, healthy carbs, and a little bit of fat is okay here as well. Try some of these options!
- Peanut butter banana toast
- Protein shake with berries
- Apple with 1 tbsp almond butter
What to eat for HIIT cardio or long runs
HIIT cardio is going to affect your body a little bit more intensely than steady-state cardio. Also, running for more than an hour (think distance race training) requires a little bit more fuel. For this type of cardio, I would recommend eating prior to training so that you have enough energy to give it your all. After training, have some carbs and protein (a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein).
- Protein shake with a banana
- Sprouted grain toast with 1 tbsp almond butter and sugar-free jelly
- High-protein granola with almond milk
- Protein powder mixed with coconut water
- 4 ounces chicken breast and 1 small sweet potato
- One of these post-workout meals
Maximize your cardio workout by fueling your workouts! Try these meal ideas and let us know what you think!