6 Tips To Fuel Any Workout

by Victoria Le Maire, RD, LD

Last Updated: June 25, 2021

Food is the fuel your body needs to accomplish a killer workout! Filing your body with the right foods and fluids will set you up for success, no matter what activity calls your name this summer. Think of your body as a vehicle and food as the gas to keep it running smoothly through the duration of your exercise.

If you’re exercising for general health, the most important aspect in fueling your physical activity is to eat a healthful, balanced diet. If you’re gearing up for an event of higher intensity or duration, like a race or bodybuilding, then consider the following nutrition tips to fuel your event. Keep in mind, the tips below are a general guide—there is no one size fits all approach to fueling a workout. More specific guidance may be necessary, depending on your activity.

Before
Nutrition is key before exercising to help fill up your “tank” to maximize performance and provide enough energy to keep you feeling your best. Typically, we recommend fueling up between 60-90 minutes before exercise. Try to include the following in your pre-workout mix:
  • Hydrate with water. Since you will be sweating during your workout, you want to help balance anticipated fluid losses.
  • Choose high-quality, easily digestible carbohydrates that will provide your body with the nutrition it needs. Nutrient-dense options include low-fat yogurt, whole grain cereals, sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread, or rice cakes. Avoid less nutritious choices that don’t offer much fiber, vitamins, or minerals, such as cookies, cakes, or biscuits.
  • Aim to choose options low in saturated fat or protein. These types of energy will digest at a slower pace than desired for fueling activity.

If you don’t have much time before training, try to at least eat a piece of fruit like an apple or banana 5-10 minutes before your workout.

After
You did it! You moved your body, used up the energy you filled up on, and now it’s time to refuel and recover.
  • Hydration station: Drink plenty of water and consider mixing it with 100% juice to replete the glucose levels in your body. For those exercising more than 30 minutes or spending several hours outside working up a sweat, replenish electrolytes with a sports drink.
  • Carbs: Our body’s preferred energy source and fuel come from carbohydrates, and you just burned a lot of carbohydrates during exercise. Refuel with fruits, vegetables, or whole grains to help your muscles recover.
  • Protein: Pairing your carbs with protein can maximize your muscle recovery and help you feel full for longer. Choose lean protein sources like low sodium deli meat, eggs, low-fat dairy products, meat, or nuts. Try to eat your carbohydrate and protein foods within 2 hours post-workout to maximize muscle development. However, meeting the total daily intake of protein should be the primary focus of exercising individuals.

The next time you’re gearing up for a race or big event, consider these nutrition tips to keep your engine performing at its best. Remember to do what works best for you and be realistic. If unsure about what to do, consider scheduling a telenutrition appointment with a Registered Dietitian to define a plan that meets your individualized needs.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


Victoria Le Maire, RD, LD

Victoria Le Maire, RD, LD

Victoria is a dedicated dietitian with a love for helping others develop a positive relationship with food, while setting realistic goals. Victoria has professional experience with various conditions such as strokes, diabetes and weight management. She strives to make a nutritious lifestyle attainable for all. You can catch Victoria scratch-cooking at home, trying new workouts at her local gym or spending time with her dog, Jack.