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Fueling Your Body for Exercise

Updated: Jul 19

By: Lizzie Lonon, Winthrop University Graduate Student

Food directly impacts energy and performance during physical activity. Not only is fueling important during exercise, but it also plays an essential role in post-workout recovery. No matter the exercise you engage In, how you fuel will make or break your workout. Unfortunately, most people have no idea what or when to eat to optimize performance. Pre- and post-workout fuel depends on the type of physical activity, the length, and individual preferences. Here are simple tips to help you feel more energized, recover effectively, and become stronger in your sport.


Pre - Workout Fueling Tips


1. Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel, providing the energy needed during exercise. Avoid eating foods high in protein and fat as it will take your body longer to digest and use for energy.






2. Fuel timing – Typically, it is best to fuel one’s body 1-3 hours before a workout. Try eating a high carbohydrate snack 30 min – to 1 hour before your workout. Or eat a high carbohydrate meal 1-3 hours before.





High carbohydrate suggestions for pre-workout fuel:

  • Dried fruit and nuts

  • Peanut butter and banana

  • Applesauce

  • Pretzels

  • Oatmeal with low fat milk and fruit

  • Greek yogurt with fruit

  • PB & J

  • Apple and peanut butter

 

Post - Workout Fueling Tips

  • Always eat 30 to 60 minutes following a workout.

  • Protein promotes muscle recovery and building. Eat a 3:1 (carbs to protein ratio). This means for every 1 gram of protein eat 3 grams of carbohydrates.

Protein + Carb post workout fueling suggestions

  • Hummus and pita bread

  • Rice cake and nut butter

  • Hard boiled eggs and fruit

  • Egg and Toast

  • Salmon and sweet potato

  • Tuna and crackers




 

Hydration

Hydration is essential before, during, and after exercise. Water makes up 60% of the human body and works to maintain blood volume, regulate body temperature, improve metabolic functions, distribute nutrients through the body, and more. If not adequately hydrated before exercise, one is at risk for dehydration, which can adversely affect the body. A lack of proper hydration may lead to decreased performance, heat stress, heat stroke, decrease in blood flow and sweat rate. Consuming liquids helps replenish the water and electrolytes lost in sweat. It can restore muscle function, reduce the risk of heat stroke, and improve exercise performance.


Hydration Tips

  • Drink water throughout the day

  • Consume 14-22 ounces of fluid 2 hours before exercise.

  • Drink 6-12 ounces for every 15-20 minutes of exercise.

  • If exercise lasts more than one hour, replenish with a sports drink.



References:

Ellis CE. How to fuel your workout. EatRight. https://www.eatright.org/fitness/exercise/exercise-nutrition/how-to-fuel-your-workout#:~:text=Carbohydrates%20are%20the%20major%20fuel,muscles%20to%20power%20your%20workout. Accessed June 16, 2022.


Fluid and electrolyte needs for training, competition, and recovery. Food, Nutrition and Sports Performance III. 2013:47-54. doi:10.4324/9781315873268-12


Food as fuel before, during and after workouts. www.heart.org. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/food-as-fuel-before-during-and-after-workouts. Published January 12, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2022.


Sutton BG. Nasm Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2022.


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