The question is especially fraught when it comes to SoulCycle, the popular intense spin workout that incorporates hand weights, jumps, sprints and core work into a 45-minute session that can leave you wobbly well before the session is over. (If you’ve ever taken a spin class, you know that slipping out of class early is a special kind of humiliation.) So we asked two fitness experts what they eat before and after a SoulCycle class to fuel peak performance and avoid a spinout.
To avoid stomach cramps and to optimize your energy, eat at least one-and-a-half hours before your SoulCycle session, says Sean Wells, DPT, PT, OCS, ATC/L, CSCS, a certified personal trainer and owner of Naples Personal Training (naplespersonaltraining.com). “Consider a small plate of beans, brown rice and broccoli with a light sprinkling of soy sauce for flavoring,” says Wells. “The rice will provide carbohydrates essential for maintaining higher intensity exercise, and the protein from the beans will offer your body necessary protein to optimize muscular recovery.” Wells likes to add the soy sauce for a hit of sodium to aid muscle contractions and prevent cramps, and he adds broccoli for workout-friendly nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and vitamin C.
If you’re short on time, Wells suggests grabbing a banana, a jar of almond butter and some raisins. “The banana and raisins offer you essential carbohydrates to last through the long cycling, while the potassium in each will keep cramps at bay,” he says. “Lastly, the almond butter provides some important fat for energy, as well as protein for muscle recovery,” Wells adds.
Felicia Walker, certified spin instructor at the New York Health and Racquet Club, swears by her pre-workout Breakfast Pancake (recipe below), which contains an egg, oats, cinnamon and vanilla to give you sustained energy that will sit well in your stomach during a high-intensity workout. “Eggs are the perfect protein, and milk gives you a dose of bone-building calcium,” she says, “while cinnamon and vanilla are loaded with antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may help lower blood sugar and cholesterol. And oats provide fiber, which has been found to help prevent heart disease and is beneficial to digestion.”
So after the class, how do you reassemble the wreckage that used to be called your muscles and bones? “You’re expending a lot of energy and sweat during a spin workout, so it’s important that you replenish fluids and feed your body some protein to help with muscle recovery,” says Walker. For a post-workout refuel, she drink lots of water and opts for an easily-digested smoothie with banana, yogurt and almonds.
For a quick, easy recovery meal after a hard session, Wells suggests canned tuna, celery, tomatoes and grapes. He slices the tomatoes and celery into the canned tuna and mixes it with black pepper and garlic powder, enjoying the grapes as a dessert. “The canned tuna offers fantastic protein for muscle recovery and salt to help replenish your electrolyte balance,” he says. “The tomato offers potassium to prevent cramps and vitamin C to keep your immune system boosted while the celery provides essential phytonutrients for detoxification,” he explains. And, perhaps most importantly: “The grapes provide some simple carbohydrates and sweetness to reward yourself.”
For a larger meal, Wells advises digging into a roasted chicken salad with raw spinach leaves, sliced cucumbers and a small side of quinoa. “The chicken is a great source of protein for muscle recovery while the spinach provides vitamin A for free radical reduction,” he says. “The cucumber provides important detoxifying phytonutrients. The quinoa gives your body a wonderful, balanced replenishing of carbohydrates, protein and fat, and essential nutrients such as iron and B6 for energy,” he explains.
Felicia Walker’s Pre-Workout Breakfast Pancake
What You'll Need
2 tbsp skim milk
3 tbsp quick oats
Optional: 1/2 sliced banana; handful of blueberries or raspberries; 1 tbsp canned pumpkin; 1 tbsp crushed walnuts.
How to Make It
Scramble egg with skim milk, then scramble other ingredients with the egg mixture. Spray an 8" pan with cooking spray. Cook mixture until firm on the bottom, then flip and cook the other side.