20 Mar Pre/Post Workout Nutrition Tips – Fueling Yourself Right!
As an RD, a question I get a lot is “What do I need to know about timing my meals/snacks around exercise?”. Some of us may begin noticing differences in our energy levels and hunger on the days we workout vs. the days we don’t work out. Maybe you find yourself more hungry on the days you workout, or maybe you feel sluggish on workout days and you don’t know why, even if you have been getting in your meal/snack volume – these are just some examples of how our body tells us it needs fuel!
During my day job, I work as a dietitian in schools, where one of my areas of focus is with student-athletes. One of the first things I always ask them is the question – would you drive a car without fuel? They answer – duh, of course not. Well, we should think of our bodies the same way, where if you go into a workout without fuel, you may not perform at your best and you may not have energy. You are honestly putting yourself at a disadvantage! I feel that this question, which may sound silly and simple, is something that we may have to still remind ourselves about, even as adults.
When recommending ways to properly fuel yourself, first take a step back and look at your daily meal intake. Luckily on our meal plans, you are given structured meals and snacks, which our hope is that you take this structure and adopt it as a consistent habit for the long-term. Consistency gives your body the continued fuel it needs, so you don’t dip into low energy and
low performance. If you feel like you are still feeling this way right now, reach out and let’s talk.
For early morning exercisers:
1. Focus on what you ate the night before – Ensure you are eating a meal that is
balanced in protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats and veggies.
a. If you have low energy in the morning, focus on ensuring your dinner contains
quality sources of complex carbohydrates – whole grains, beans/legumes, fruit,
b. Depending on what time you eat dinner, you may also benefit from adjusting your
snacks where you eat one of your snacks before bedtime, ensuring it is a snack
balanced with both carbs and protein/fats (I will give some examples below!).
2. Do you have time to fit in a morning meal or snack prior? – Depending on the time
you workout this may or may not be feasible. This one will take some trial and error. If
you workout at 5 or 6 am, and are truly not hungry, pay attention to how you feel during
and after your workouts. If this is you, revisit question #1 and identify 1-2 areas you can
focus on improving.
a. If you are awake 30 – 45 minutes before your workout, try consuming something
light such as a protein shake or small snack
3. Fueling immediately after your workout – If you are someone who does well with
morning workouts and you feel good, you will want to focus on fueling yourself
immediately after your workouts. We will get into that next!
For late morning, afternoon or evening exercisers:
1. Consistent meals prior to exercise
a. If it is late morning, focus on getting your breakfast in
b. If it is evening, focus on being consistent with your breakfast, lunch and dinner (if
you are working out after dinner)
2. Timing of meals and snacks – Shoot for eating a meal 2-3 hours before exercise, or a
snack 30 minutes – 1 hour prior
a. This too takes trial and error depending how your body digests the types of foods
you are consuming, the volume and the time you are eating
Pre-workout meal & snack recommendations
1. Meals – The five food groups do serve a purpose! Prior to exercise, always ensure your
meals are well balanced – luckily our meal plan recipes do a good job of that 🙂
2. Snacks – Shoot for a combination of a carbohydrate paired with a protein/fat source
a. See the ‘snacks for fueling’ section of your snack list for some ideas
b. If you create your own snack, here are some general guidelines to follow:
i. 150 calories (snack B) or 250 calories (snack A), incorporating: 15-30
grams of carbohydrates + 7 grams protein or 5 grams fat
c. Choose meals/snacks that are easy to digest
3. Hydration – don’t forget to hydrate! – see my constipation/bloating tips for volume
Fueling during your workouts
1. Keep hydrated – Replenish any fluids that are lost due to sweat
a. Shoot for 1oz of water, or one big gulp, every 15 minutes. This will keep your
hydration stores leveled out, with hopes you came into your workout properly
2. If you workout for more than 1 hour at a time, you should consider incorporating some
type of food source for energy…however, we won’t get into that today. If this is you,
reach out and we can chat about proper fueling!
Post-workout meal & snack recommendations:
1. Replenish with water – General rule of thumb is to drink until you are no longer thirsty,
then drink an extra 2, 8oz glasses of water
2. Replenish with food – Shoot for eating a meal or snack 1-2 hours after exercise
a. If you wait too long, you have closed the window of opportunity for your body to
repair and replenish itself, which can put you at risk for the following:
i. Future injuries
ii. Low performance, or inability to meet future PRs 🙁
iii. Low energy overall
iv. More soreness
v. Inflammation – water retention – weight gain
3. What to incorporate – Recovery should always encompass a combination of…you
guessed it…Balance! Incorporate a meal well-balanced in protein, carbohydrates,
healthy fats and veggies.
a. Each plays an important and specific role in recovery:
i. Protein – repairs muscle damage that has occurred from your workout
ii. Carbohydrates –refuel your energy stores so they are prepped and ready
for the next workout. Consuming carbohydrates also helps regulate your
blood sugars, ensuring you recover quickly and feel re-energized after
iii. Fats – Helps to transport vitamins and minerals throughout your body
necessary for growth and development. Fats also help build satiety so
you stay fuller longer and fuel up on the good stuff vs. extra consumption
of empty calories.
I hope these recommendations help you as you navigate how to properly fuel yourself before
and after workouts. In the end, we want you to keep killing it with your workouts, hitting new
PRs, and maybe feeling a little less sore as you recover :).
As always, please reach out to me at Kelsey@kfitbody.com, if you have any questions!