Maximize Your Workout With Food

By Escali in Healthy Living

You may not be a professional mountain climber training to climb Kilimanjaro or a marathoner preparing for a three day desert run, but you could still benefit from fueling your body correctly to maximize your workout results. Losing weight is generally simple without conflicting circumstances: eat fewer calories than you burn but enough to maintain energy levels for exercise. What you eat before, during and after a workout play enormous roles in your endurance levels, how quickly you can recover and will determine whether or not the calories you consume turn into fat or burns efficiently. The Mayo Clinic has provided tips and suggestions for maximizing your workout with food.

1.  Eat before you workout

Whether or not you eat before your workout is up to you. Some people like to start the day off with a run and the idea of food early in the morning can be unappetizing. Since your body mostly runs off of stored carbohydrates and not always from your last meal, it is acceptable not to eat prior to exercise. However, your blood sugars may be low and without proper fuel before a workout, especially in the morning, you may feel sluggish or lightheaded during exertion which could affect your clarity and focus  for the rest of the day. Recommended breakfast options or pre-workout foods are those that have a substantial amount of carbohydrates. Foods with a good amount of carbs will maximize your energy. Some options for pre-workout/morning snacks include:

–Milk, bananas, whole-grain cereals, juice and or even a small amount of carrots and hummus for a little something different.

2. Size Matters

As with portion control in general, it’s important  to be aware of how much you’re eating and especially important in regards to timing with exercise. Eating too much before a workout can make you feel sluggish and unmotivated whereas not eating enough can cause you to get sick, feel lightheaded and possible even faint. Size really does matter when it comes to food so remember the following:

  • Large meals:  Eat at least 3 to 4 hours before exercise
  • Small meals:   Eat 2-3 hours before exercise
  • Small snacks:  Eat an hour before exercising

If you are diligent in remembering the size of the meals you’re eating in regards to when you plan on working out, you can maximize your efforts and be that much closer to reaching your goals and full potential.

3.  Snack Well

When it comes to eating between main meals, do what works best for you and listen to what your body is telling you. Snacking before a workout might not give you the extra kick of energy you need that very instant, but it could possibly help with blood sugar levels and prevent hunger pains. It’s important to snack on food that will be beneficial, rather than detrimental to your progress. The following are good snack options that will not only help with hunger but overall satisfaction between meals as well:

–Fresh fruit, whole-grain bagels, crackers with peanut butter, granola bars, fruit smoothies, vegetables, bananas, energy bars and yogurt.

4.  Eat after you workout

Right after your workout, it’s important to eat because  your muscles need the nutrients such as protein to repair and recover and one needs to replenish glycogen levels. Plan to eat within half an hour of working out or at least two hours prior because your body will use it most efficiently in that time frame. Protein shakes are popular but unnecessary.  Protein from peanut butter, an egg or a glass of milk will work just as well as an expensive shake.  Some other post-workout options include:

–Yogurt and fruit, a sandwich containing meat, peanut butter, string cheese, crackers and nuts, dried fruit or a regular sized meal that includes a starch, cooked vegetables or a salad.

5.  Drink Up!

During a workout, the best thing you can do is stay hydrated. Water is key to your cooling system. Depending on your size and how hot it is where you are, you may need to drink more than the recommended amount. If you are exercising longer than an hour, a sports drink is also an option to aid hydration and help replenish electrolytes and carbohydrates for energy.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the following recommendations are for optimal hydration before, during and after a workout:

  • 2-3 cups (0.5 to 0.7 liters) of water during the two to three hours before your workout.
  • 1/2 to 1 cup (0.12 to 0.23 liters) of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout.
  • 2-3 cups (0.5 to 0.7 liters)  of water after you workout for every pound (0.5 kilogram) of weight your lose during the workout.

Water is key to maintaining and achieving optimal health. It’s alright to have sports drinks and juices here and there for the carbohydrate and electrolyte levels, but nothing beats good ol’  H2O.


The duration and intensity of your activity will dictate how much water you will drink and how often you eat.  Everyone’s body and specific needs are different and while these tips are solid advice for anyone, the most important thing to remember is that eating and exercise go hand-in-hand.

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