What to Eat Before and After Your Workout—Paleo Style

Photo: Cassy Joy Garcia

Planning your meals around your workouts can be tricky. You want something with enough protein to fire you up for your fitness class, but eating too soon can mean burpees on a full stomach. (No thanks.) And afterward, it's important to eat or drink something that will help your body recover. But notice how when you're ravenous and don't have a plan your thoughtful post-workout meal goes out the window for whatever's closest? (Oops.)

Fed & Fit
Photo: Victory Belt Publishing

Cassy Joy Garcia can definitely relate. The Fed & Fit blogger says she's always led an active lifestyle (from yoga and snowboarding to golf), but it wasn't until she "chose a grain-free, dairy-free, artificial ingredient-free lifestyle so many of us have come to know as Paleo" that she had enough energy to power through her workouts—and ultimately what she needed to kick a lot of health issues.

The Texan's since become a major Paleo devotee, and shares tons of clean recipes on her site and now in her debut book—aptly named Fed & Fit, which also includes healthy mindset and fitness advice. So we tapped Garcia for healthy recipes that are ideal for workouts like yoga, barre, and CrossFit.

Here's what to eat before and after your workout, Paleo-style—no matter how you like to get your sweat on.

The Workout: Yoga

Whether she hits the mat for restorative yoga or a more challenging Ashtanga sesh, Garcia says yoga is one of her favorite workouts. "It's an excellent workout that can establish a foundation of mobility that can help prevent future injury," she says.

green smoothie
Photo: Cassy Joy Garcia

What to eat before yoga: Green Detox Smoothie

This fiber-rich smoothie digests faster than a kale salad since your blender helps break the ingredients down even before your first sip. Sip it at least 90 minutes before class, so it won't be sitting in your stomach while you downward dog.

1/2 ripe plantain, cut into chunks and frozen (about 1/2 cup)
1 packed cup kale leaves
1 packed cup fresh spinach
1/4 avocado
1/4 packed cup fresh cilantro or parsley leaves and stems
1 teaspoon ginger powder
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/2 cup cold water

Place all the ingredients in a blender. Blend for 2 minutes, or until the mixture is entirely smooth.

Tuna Salad
Photo: Cassy Joy Garcia

What to eat after yoga: Curried Sardine & Tuna Salad

After yoga, Garcia likes something that's satisfying in the protein department, but not too heavy. This recipe is full of omega-3s and healthy fats—and inflammation-fighting spices.

Yields 2 to 4 servings

2 cans tuna packed in water, drained
1 tin sardines packed in water, drained
1 jicama, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup avocado oil mayo
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp turmeric powder
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp fine sea salt
1/4 Tbsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
1 jalapeño pepper, cut into rounds, for garnish

1. Place all the ingredients, except the cilantro and jalapeño, in a large mixing bowl. Using a fork, break up the chunks of tuna and sardines into the rest of the ingredients. Stir until well combined and showing an even color.

2. Garnish with the chopped cilantro and jalapeño slices and serve.

The Workout: CrossFit

"When I want a good sweat, heart rate boost, and to work through some healthy weight-bearing activities, I turn to CrossFit," says Garcia. Though she says not every day is a give-it-100-percent day. "I think it's smart for injury prevention and energy conservation."

Purple Smoothie
Photo: Cassy Joy Garcia

What to eat before CrossFit: Purple Protein Smoothie

You're about to be swinging a kettlebell and box jumping for an hour—your body needs protein and healthy fats and carbs a couple hours before, says Garcia. Blueberries are pretty amazing form of carbs, too, since they're packed with antioxidants, and help fight free-radicals, a normal (but unfriendly) workout byproduct.

1 cup frozen blueberries
1 scoop protein powder
2 Tbsp canned full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup cold water

Place all the ingredients in a blender. Blend for 2 minutes, or until the mixture is entirely smooth.

Teriyak Potato
Photo: Cassy Joy Garcia

What to eat after CrossFit: Teriyaki Beef & Broccoli Loaded Potatoes

Meat and potatoes (plus a shopping cart amount of greens) are a CrossFitter's cliche, but hey, there's a good reason. Chances are, you're feeling ravenous post-WOD, so this meal, Garcia swears, will hit the spot.

Yields 4 servings

4 medium-sized white potatoes
1 head broccoli, de-stemmed and cut into florets (about 3 cups)
1 Tbsp salted butter
1 lb wafer-thin sliced beef
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 Tbsp white sesame seeds, for garnish
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, for garnish

For the sauce
2 tsp sesame oil (untoasted)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, minced (about 2 tsp)
3/4 cup coconut aminos
1 tsp fish sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, or until they give when squeezed with your hand, protected by an oven mitt or kitchen towel. When the potatoes are finished baking, set them aside to cool slightly before assembly.

2. While the potatoes are baking, prepare the sauce. Heat the sesame oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for about 4 minutes, or until fragrant, but not burned. Then add the ginger and sauté for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until fragrant. Lastly, add the coconut aminos and fish sauce. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, and let the sauce reduce for about 20 minutes. When it coats the back of a spoon, it’s finished.

3. To cook the broccoli, place the florets in a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water. Place a lid on the pot and steam for 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is easily pierced with a fork. When finished, turn off the heat and set aside until assembly.

4. To cook the meat, melt the butter in a large frying pan. Cut the wafer-thin sliced beef in half into bite-sized pieces, then sprinkle with the salt. Add the meat to the hot butter and cook on one side for 2 to 3 minutes over high heat, or until the beef starts to develop a slight char. Flip them over and cook until you get the same color on the other side.

5. To assemble the potatoes, cut the potatoes lengthwise across the top and use a fork to smash the thick flesh open. Place an equal amount of broccoli into each potato pocket, then top with the beef. Drizzle with the sauce and garnish with the white sesame seeds and red pepper flakes.

The workout: Barre

Garcia says she loves doing the occasional barre class for a low-impact, concentrated focus on isometric movements. "Barre gives back what you put in....don't be afraid work until you feel the shake," she says.

Photo: Cassy Joy Garcia

What to eat before a barre class: Two Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

Pulsing and plie-ing for 45 minutes isn't easy, but it doesn't require the same sort of fuel (AKA carbs) that cardio-based workouts do. The key here, says Garcia: go simple with something protein-based, yet easy to digest in an hour or so so you won't feel sluggish or bloated in class.

Yields 6 servings (2 eggs per serving)

12 large chilled eggs

Topping suggestions:
Small dollop of avocado oil mayo
Capers, smoked salmon, and fresh dill
Mustard and chives

1. Bring about 3 inches of water in a large pot to a boil. Once boiling, pull the eggs from the refrigerator. Using a slotted spoon or fitted strainer basket, carefully place or submerge the eggs in the boiling water. Boil the eggs for exactly 10 minutes.

2. While the eggs are boiling, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with at least 5 cups of ice cubes. Add enough water to cover the ice cubes.

3. Once the eggs are finished boiling, use a slotted spoon (or the strainer basket) to pull the eggs from the boiling water. Immediately place them in the ice bath, making sure that each egg is submerged. Let them sit in the bath for at least 15 minutes. This makes them so much easier to peel.

4. Once completely chilled, either peel and enjoy right away or transfer to the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Cesar salad
Photo: Cassy Joy Garcia

What to eat after a barre class: Chicken Cesar Salad with Potato Croutons

After toning with weights and plie-ing till your thighs quake, make sure you eat something with a bit of substance. This salad feels light, but has the perfect balance of protein, veggies, and healthy fats.

Yields 3 to 4 servings

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 head romaine lettuce, leaves separated
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp fine sea salt

Creamy Caesar Dressing
2 large egg yolks
6 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
1 whole clove garlic
1 tsp mustard
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Evenly space two oven racks in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. To make the croutons: Toss the potato cubes in the olive oil, then spread them out evenly one of the lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt, then bake for 30 minutes. Flip each cube over and bake for an additional 30 minutes, until each potato cube is fork-tender and lightly browned.

3. While the potatoes are baking, prepare the chicken: Rinse and pat the chicken breasts dry, then sprinkle each side with the salt and black pepper. Place the chicken on the other lined baking sheet. When the potatoes have 30 minutes left in the oven, place the chicken in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, until the juices run clear. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before slicing crossways into 1/2-inch thick pieces.

4. To prepare the dressing, blend the egg yolks, anchovy fillets, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender together for about 30 seconds, or until smooth. With the blender running, slowly pour in the olive oil—this should take about 1 whole minute.

5. To prepare the salad, lay the romaine lettuce leaves on a large platter. Top with the sliced chicken, tomatoes, and potato croutons, drizzle with the dressing, and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Temperatures may be dropping, but your workout routine is heating up! Check out our Fall Fitness Preview, your guide to having your healthiest fall yet. And make sure to mark your calendars: Well+Good's annual Fitness Biathlon in NYC is back this October 22.

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