Fueling your body before and after a good workout is important, but not hard to do after you get into a good routine. If you're eating healthy foods that are right for your body type, the rest is all about timing, portions and how you choose to sweat!
When are you working out?
Very Early AM: If you're at the gym before the sun rises, it's understandable that you won't be making time for pre-workout breakfast. That said, it's never a bad idea to eat something small before you leave the house (banana, 1/2 English muffin, etc). This is particularly important if you're training for something. Regardless, try to eat within 45 minutes to an hour after finishing your workout.
Mid-Morning: If you're working out a little later in the morning, try to eat a decent breakfast. The ideal amount of time you want to give food to digest is three hours. If you don't have three hours to kill between breakfast and yoga, Zumba or whatever it is you do, adjust by eating a little less. Our body likes to give priority to digesting food. So if you start working on a full stomach, all the blood that should be going to your muscles to help you move better will be stuck in your belly breaking down food. You may want to have something healthy to eat after your workout, but depending on how long you exercised, you might be able to make it to lunch.
Afternoon/Evening: If you're working out later in the day, breakfast should be down the hatch. But you're also contending with lunch and possibly dinner. Try to time your meals within three hours of your workout - especially if you're a runner. Running with a half-digested turkey sandwich can be somewhat uncomfortable...to say the least.
Should you refuel during your workout?
Unless you worked out for 90 minutes+, there is no need to guzzle a sports drink or eat an energy bar in the middle of a workout. Your liver stores plenty of fuel to keep you going until you're finished. If you are working out longer than 90 minutes, then do re-fuel at or around the 90-minute mark. FYI - My FAVORITE sports nutrition company is Hammer Nutrition. They have a great line of products with the best ingredients. When I'm training for an event, this company is my go-to for refueling during a workout.
Should you refuel after your workout?
If you finish your workout right around a mealtime, then eat as planned. Protein, carbohydrates and fat are all important - so don't exclude any. **If you're trying to lose weight, eat the portions you'd normally eat. Don't eat more just because you worked out.** If you're a couple hours from mealtime, then eat a healthy snack and continue drinking plenty of water. As mentioned above, if you didn't eat before your workout, try to eat within 45 minutes of finishing.
What type of exercise are you doing?
Does your workout involve running or a lot of motion? If so, don't make the mistake of downing half your fiber for the day at lunch - mere hours before your feet hit the street. If you're stationary, or not moving around too much, you should be just fine. Nothing is worse than have 100% motivation for a great workout only to be sidelined by discomfort that could have otherwise been avoided.
How much should you eat before a workout?
This may sound a little redundant, but I get this question a lot. If you have a few hours before a workout, eat the amount you'd normally eat. If you have one to two hours before a workout, scale it back a little bit. If you've got less than an hour, eat something small that's easy to digest (banana + a tsp almond nut butter, 1/2 English muffin +1 tsp butter).