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The Best Foods for Your Workout

Not getting results? Your pre- and post-exercise meals may be to blame.

It's common sense: When you pair the right foods with your exercise plan, you recover faster, feel more energized and speed progress toward your body goals. But choosing your snacks — and planning ahead to keep them on hand — tends to throw even the most dedicated for a loop.

Fueling before a workout inspires a few different trains of thought. Some trainers recommend exercising on an empty stomach to burn more fat. My advice: Eat up. If your body has the right foods to use as energy, you will be able to handle working at higher intensities for longer periods of time, so ultimately you will burn more calories and see quicker results.

Within the hour before your session, have a snack. Not a meal; a snack. It should include a combination of carbohydrates and protein. As a general rule of thumb, women should aim to have between 100-250 calories, while men should consume between 150-400 calories. 

In the post-workout zone, the balance of nutrients is even more crucial. In order to fully recover, you need two things within the first 30 minutes of finishing: protein and carbohydrates. Protein helps your body rebuild muscles and carbohydrates help you to replenish your fuel stores.

How much should you devour after a tough session? Protein needs are always going to be set by your size, since the bigger you are, the more protein you need. Carbohydrates depend on the intensity and duration of your training. Many people skip carbohydrates in favor of protein after a session, but this is when you need them the most. After a workout, your body uses carbohydrates as fuel instead of storing them for later (which is what happens at other times throughout the day).

Check out this detailed chart of food and portion size recommendations.

Photography by Jamie Grill/Getty Images