Due to the nature of a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), proper nutrition before and after is critical to gain the most and best results from the workout.

HIIT involves moving quickly between extreme cardio, bodyweight exercises and weight bearing exercises. The combination of these movements elevates the heart rate and gets the muscles are working hard. This means the body needs both energy and nutrients to perform and recuperate.

The intensity of HIIT can cause muscle loss if the body doesn’t have the nutrients to support it, which defeats the whole purpose of working out! We aren’t asking you to sit down to a full meal, just give your body the boost of energy it needs to burn body fat. Snacks and light meals are great for pre-workout, while a healthy meal is ideal post-workout for refueling.

Not sure what to munch on? Here are a few nutrition tips to make your HIIT workout as effective as possible.

What to Eat Before a HIIT Workout

Carbs are energy- they provide fuel to exercise at our maximum levels. Without them, it is likely you’ll feel sluggish, tired or weaker than normal throughout the workout. However, knowing the difference between complex and simple carbs is very important.

  • Simple carbs: are digested faster and provide quick energy
  • Complex cabs: are broken down in a much slower process providing energy over time.

Combining the two carb types provides a boost of energy right away while sustaining you through the whole workout.

In addition to carbs, protein plays an important role in your pre-workout nutrient routine. Only a small amount of protein is needed and it is ideal to consume proteins that are easily digestible, to prevent an upset stomach.

A few snack ideas for 30 minutes to an hour before your workout are:

  • Apple with a hard-boiled egg
  • Sliced banana on a rice cake
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Whole grain toast with nut butter or sliced meat
  • Oats with dried fruit
  • Hummus and pita bread

What to Eat After a HIIT Workout

Much like your pre-workout snack or meal, good carbs and lean proteins are most important for your post-workout. Once you’ve crushed your HIIT session, your body is depleted. Now, it’s time to replenish the energy used and recover those muscles.

There are numerous consequences when we skip out on post workout nutrition. Some of these include fatigue, increased soreness and low blood sugar levels which can result in dizziness and other symptoms.

Post nutrition should include protein to build and repair the muscle tissue, allowing the body to recover more quickly partnered a complex carbohydrate to replenish energy and fuel stores.

A good rule of thumb is to consume your post-workout snack or meal within 30-60 minutes of your cool-down. If you can’t eat a meal right away, be sure to grab a snack within about 20 minutes for optimal recovery, so you don’t completely tank the rest of the day.

A few meal ideas for 30 minutes to an hour after your workout are:

  • Egg white omelet loaded with vegetables and a side of fruit
  • Peanut butter and banana in a whole grain wrap
  • Oats with a banana and yogurt
  • A chicken or turkey sandwich wrap
  • Tuna and crackers
  • Lean meats with quinoa and vegetables
  • Whole grain toast with nut butter

Hydration is Key!

While eating right before and after a workout is important you can’t forget to hydrate. As we sweat we lose fluids that should be replenished following a workout, but drinking enough water before your session is just as important.

Dehydration will zap strength, especially during a high intensity workout. The recommended water intake varies from person to person based on intensity of the workout and body weight, however a basic rule of thumb is:

  • Drink 20 ounces 2-3 hours before your workout
  • Drink a full 8-ounce glass 30 minutes before your workout
  • Drink another 16-ounces 30 minutes following your workout

Don’t let your performance decline part way through; be sure to stay hydrated during your workout, too. Drinking another 8-ounces for every 20 minutes of intense movement will keep you on your toes and pushing maximum performance.