HIIT is an incredibly fast-paced form of exercise that can help you reach weight loss goals, improve your heart and lung health, boost your mood, metabolism and more. We’ve been talking a lot about HIIT lately - from the benefits of a HIIT workout to just how often you should be incorporating HIIT workouts in order to see the best results.
But there is another important, sometimes overlooked factor when it comes to the effectiveness of HIIT training, and that is proper nutrition.
Many people turn to HIIT because they are looking to lose weight and get lean, and with those goals in mind it is common to want to skimp on calories as well, thinking the weight loss will come easier and faster. But here’s the deal: you’ve got to properly fuel your body in order for it to perform under these intense circumstances.
HIIT gets your heart pumping and your muscles working, and your body needs energy both to perform as well as to recover from these sessions. To make your HIIT workout as effective as possible you’ll need to think about your nutrition both pre and post workout.
So, what should you eat while doing HIIT? In this article we’ll look into the best way to fuel your body for your high intensity interval training sessions.
Fuel Your Body for a HIIT Workout
HIIT routines are unquestionably intense - it says so right there in the acronym - and with that in mind you know they require a ton of energy from your body. Food is the fuel that allows your body to provide the energy that powers you through your HIIT workout! You’ve got to eat in order to have this energy available when it comes time.
Pre-workout, you’ll want to focus on a combination of protein and complex carbohydrates.
These two macronutrients will help your body perform and recover. Complex carbohydrates, as opposed to simple carbs, are digested and broken down slowly over time. This means they act as a sustained energy source for the body. Protein, though most often thought of as an after-workout necessity, is important going into your training as well, though in lower quantities.
The idea here is to have protein already available in the bloodstream to begin repairing and rebuilding the muscles as soon as the workout is complete.
When to Eat Before Your HIIT Routine
The other thing to take into account is the timing of your pre-workout meal or snack. You don’t want to eat too close to your workout and risk an upset stomach or cramps.
Ideally you will have two hours between eating and your workout in order to completely digest your food. Read here some high energy meals, also perfect if you do not know yet what to eat before HIIT in the morning.
Best food before HIIT
A few ideas for this 2 hour time frame:
- Scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast
- Oatmeal with fruit and nut butter
- Chicken with brown rice
If you don’t have a full two hours to digest before your workout, try something a little smaller with a focus on simple carbohydrates so that you can still sneak in a quick meal that is easily digested. If you have 30 minutes to an hour before your workout you might try to include:
- Banana with nut butter
- Greek yogurt with berries
- A hard-boiled egg and an apple
What and When to Eat After a HIIT Workout
Post-HIIT session your body has been put through the ringer and has most likely exhausted all of its energy sources. At this point the focus should be on recharging and refueling so your body can begin to recover. Similarly to your pre-workout meal, healthy complex carbs and lean proteins should also be the basis for your post-workout plate as well.
You’ll want the protein so that your body can get started in building and repairing muscle tissue, while the carbs work to restore energy. Skipping a post-workout meal can mean increased fatigue and sluggishness which are definitely not the feelings we want to cultivate after a sweaty, adrenaline-boosting HIIT session!
Food to eat after a workout
As far as timing is concerned, try to get in your post-workout snack or meal somewhere within 30 minutes to an hour after your workout has ended.
This time frame will assist your body in jumpstarting it’s recovery and making sure you aren’t completely drained for the rest of the day.
Some ideal combinations for an after workout meal are:
- An omelet filled with veggies and a side serving of fruit
- A whole grain wrap with chicken or turkey
- Chicken with quinoa and veggies
- Oatmeal with a banana and yogurt
Finally, while nutrient intake and timing are both important pre and post exercise, it is imperative not to neglect your hydration ! Your body needs to be properly hydrated in order to optimally perform some of its most vital functions, and HIIT routines can be sweaty to say the least.
Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day in order to stay properly hydrated. This means drinking water in the hours before exercise, having your water bottle on hand during exercise and being sure to replenish fluids after your HIIT session has concluded.
HIIT workouts are incredibly demanding on the body, and even if you are pursuing weight loss goals, it is essential to properly fuel your body for these kinds of challenging workouts. Make sure to get set up with a pre-workout snack to power you through your workout and a post-workout meal to refuel begin the recovery process!