Food is a key component of having a great workout. While some people don't feel the best after they eat before a workout (cramps, cramps, cramps), other people need to have enough fuel to power through their workout. I'm one of those who needs a good portion of carbs and protein before I hit the gym in order to feel my best. Here are some of my top tips for picking great pre- (and post-) workout meals and beverages! 

Consider the calories you need. 

Often (but not always), working out is weight-motivated. You can expect to gain weight if you consume more calories than you expend doing exercise. It's important to recognize that your body requires a surplus of energy to perform basic metabolic functions (like digestion, breathing, and brain function). If you exercise beyond your metabolic function (such as running, walking, or lifting), you'll need to consume calories to make up that energy expended. If you're looking to lose weight, you should try to expend more calories than you consume. However, if you don't eat enough, you'll likely feel foggy, tired, and unmotivated. 

Avoid oily, fatty, and highly sugary foods before exercising. 

This is a big one, and dependent on the type of diet you currently consume. Foods like candy, bacon, ice cream, and fried foods may trigger indigestion, so be wary of what you consume before your workout. 

Eating too much right before a workout can give you cramps. Timing is everything! 

The timing of your pre-workout meal depends on your digestive system. For the most part, nutritionists recommend that you should eat between one and four hours before exercise. You should aim to have a meal that combines all of the major macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) such as peanut butter on toast, eggs, a sandwich, or similar options. If you'd prefer a lighter option, maybe try to have some yogurt and fruit. This meal might contain less than 400 calories. 

If you choose to eat less than an hour before your workout, steer clear of fats and oils; try a piece of fruit or toast instead. These foods are easy to digest and will give you short-term boosts of energy. 

Include protein in your post-workout meal. 

Your body needs protein to build back muscle fibers after your workout, so protein is an essential macronutrient to any athlete's diet. Foods high in protein include tofu, beans, nuts, meat, and fish. You also might include some grab-and-go snacks for after your workout: protein bars, dried fruit, and nut butter packs are excellent ideas. One brand I've recently suggested to some of my fitness friends is Life's Grape. They offer tasty peanut-butter covered and dark-chocolate covered raisins for your snacking pleasure. 

If you're looking for an app to track your macronutrient intake, I recommend MyFitnessPal. You can set daily calorie goals based on your activity level as well as see the daily distribution of your macros. 

Hydrate as needed. 

You don't need to consume copious amounts of water before or during your workout- just drink as much water as you need. Athletes who train for several hours (e.g. endurance runners and marathoners) often need to replenish their electrolytes. This is why you often see athletes consuming Gatorade or Powerade during sessions. The average person doesn't need these beverages, which are often just full of calories and sugar rather than hydration, but there are some healthier options on the market for those who need to replenish. I recently tried Greater Than's post-workout coconut water beverages. These drinks are full of electrolytes like potassium that your body craves after a hard workout. The beverages are also low in calories, so they are perfect for athletes. My favorite thing about Greater Than's beverages are that they're super portable; I can throw one in my gym bag and pull it out when I need it! 

Listen to your body and pay attention to how different foods respond to your system. 

Crafting personal pre- and post-workout meal plans is challenging because no two bodies are the same. Although you might see fitness Instagram accounts with an "everything I eat in a day" plans, it is important to remember that what your body requires might be different than others. If you're concerned with how diet relates to athletic performance, consult a dietician or a primary care provider.