Choosing the best fuel before you hit the (home) gym makes the difference between a mediocre workout and a great workout.
What you eat impacts your performance, endurance, and just how good you feel overall while you’re working out. How you fuel your body after your workout is just as important if you want the best results.
However, planning what you eat before and after a workout doesn’t necessarily require a lot of time or money. Here are some of the best healthy pantry staples to fuel before a workout and optimize recovery.
Pre-workout healthy pantry staples: focus on healthy carbs
Ideally, your pre-workout meal or snack will happen about two hours before your actual workout.
You’ll want to focus first on hydration (this is always key), and then build your pre-workout meal with carbohydrate-based healthy pantry staples such as:
1. Oatmeal is a pantry essential
Oatmeal is packed with the healthy carbohydrates your body prefers for heavy activity.
Use low-fat milk or your favorite dairy alternative and feel free to add some berries if you have them (hint: buy frozen berries since fresh ones don’t last long).
2. Rice cakes for a cheap healthy snack
This healthy pantry staple is all about convenience. Rice cakes serve as a grab-and-go source of healthy carbs that require no meal prep at all.
Perfect for those early morning workouts! Feel free to add a little protein with nut butter. Or, use rice cakes in your post-workout meal with egg or tuna salad.
3. Whole wheat toast or bagel
Like rice cakes, whole wheat toast provides healthy carbs without being too heavy on your stomach before a tough workout. A small bagel is another option.
Keep it simple and eat your toast plain, or add a little nut butter or sugar-free jam.
4. Healthy easy meals with brown rice
Rice is one of the best healthy pantry staples for any time of day. It goes with pretty much anything and it’s easy to prepare. Brown rice specifically provides a great serving of carbs and fiber.
Before your workout, eat a small serving of rice on its own or with a little chicken.
5. Whole grain pasta
Pasta is the ultimate healthy pantry staple for athletes loading up on carbs. Pay attention to the serving size, because it doesn’t take much to hit your carbohydrate goal.
Plus, you don’t want too much pasta sitting in your stomach during an intense workout.
Healthy pantry staples to fuel your body post-workout
Working out breaks down muscle protein and uses up your glycogen stores.
Therefore, you should replenish your body with protein after a workout to help rebuild and grow new muscle. Carbs and healthy fats are important post-workout as well.
1. Premium protein cookies
This healthy pantry staple offers the best of all worlds for workout fuel. Actually, it’s just a great snack to keep on hand for any time of day.
Besides being tasty and convenient, Naked Cookies provide a great balance of lean whey protein, fat, and carbs without a ton of ingredients. Bonus: no cooking after a tough workout.
2. Peanut butter is an essential pantry staple
It’s safe to say nut butter is a favorite pantry staple for most people. It’s high in protein and fat and requires no work at all. Just scoop and eat if you want (be careful about your portions though).
You can also spread some peanut butter on a piece of toast, or add a tablespoon to oatmeal, yogurt or smoothies.
3. Unflavored protein powder for a versatile way of adding quality protein to your diet
The primary reason that many people chose to avoid flavored protein powders has to do with how those flavors are achieved and the long list of ingredients.
Unflavored protein powders, however, are free from these additives and have a distinct advantage over their flavored counterparts in that they can be used in virtually any way you can imagine.
Of course, you can add an unflavored protein powder to nearly any combination of smoothies and shakes you can think of. Unflavored protein powders also have tons of other non-shake culinary uses such as being added to sauces and soups, alongside being extremely easy to bake with.
Having unflavored protein powder on hand allows you to use the powder in plenty of ways that flavored variety just would not be able to handle.
4. Nuts and seeds for a balanced pantry snack
Nuts like pecans, almonds, and macadamia, are filling and packed with nutrition. They offer a good balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fats, as well as convenience.
Likewise, seeds make it easy to add nutrition to any pre or post-workout meal. Add chia seed or flaxseed to toast, a bagel, yogurt, or a smoothie to sneak in some extra protein, healthy fat, and fiber.
5. Sweet potatoes for protein and carbs
It might be difficult to keep fresh fruits and vegetables on hand, but sweet potatoes will stay fresh for a while. Although sweet potatoes aren’t high in protein, they are a great source of healthy carbs.
Balance out this post-workout meal with hard-boiled eggs or tuna, and some avocado.
6. Tuna, the perfect post-workout pantry snack
If keeping fresh lean protein on hand is difficult or inconvenient, then canned tuna is the perfect healthy pantry staple for your post-workout meal. Tuna is protein-rich and extremely versatile.
Choose tuna canned in water to save yourself calories and fat. Eat it right out of the can or pouch, throw it on a salad, or mix up a healthy tuna salad.