by Claire Domian, Dietetic Intern

Have you ever struggled through a workout because you skipped out on a pre-workout snack? Have you ever eaten too much or the wrong foods and felt sick during a workout? Not only does WHAT we eat affect how we feel during a workout, but also how much we eat and how soon we eat beforehand. Oftentimes exercise nutrition can depend on the athlete or the specific activity, but there are some general tips for pre- and post-workout nutrition that can help you power through a workout and speed up your recovery afterwards.

Pre-workout fueling can start as early as two hours before exercise and as late as 15 minutes before. The best types of food or drink to have depends on the amount of time before exercising as well as individual tolerance to certain foods. You will need to experiment with different snacks and strategies before finding the combination and timing that works best for you. However, as a general rule, it’s best not to eat immediately before a workout because as you exercise your stomach is trying to simultaneously digest the food in your stomach – a challenge for optimal performance that can also cause discomfort while you train.

Ideally, you should eat something about 1 to 3 hours prior to your workout, depending on how your body tolerates food. Again, try different strategies and see what time frame works best for your body. If you’re a competitive athlete, this is something you need to explore during your training days and not during game day. Examples of pre-workout snacks could be:

  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Oatmeal with low-fat milk and fruit
  • Apple and peanut or almond butter
  • Handful of nuts and raisins (two parts raisins: one part nuts)

All of these examples include both carbohydrates and protein. Carbs are the fuel that our muscles run on, while protein is what builds and repairs your muscles.

After a workout, what and when we eat can determine our ability to recover and to build muscle. When we exercise we use up the energy stored in our muscles, so it’s important to replenish what we lost. Consuming both carbs and protein immediately after a workout gives muscles the ability to replenish the energy they just used up through training and also helps your muscles rebuild and repair. Try to eat within 30 minutes of completing an intense workout. Post-workout snacks could include:

  • Low-fat chocolate milk
  • Fruit smoothie with 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • Cereal with 8oz milk
  • Cheese or peanut butter sandwich

Not only is nutrition critical for a successful workout, but being adequately hydrated is also important – for both exercise and overall health. Try carrying a water bottle with you throughout the day to ensure you are drinking adequate amounts of water. Two to three hours before a workout, plan on having 16 oz or about one water bottle to avoid things like fatigue, muscle cramps and headaches.

For more information, consult with Lee Hyrkas, Registered Dietitian for Bellin Health Fitness .  Lee can provide you with more tips on meal planning, sport specific nutrition guidance, or general health and weight loss strategies. He can also serve as a resource for you to increase your knowledge on pre/post exercise nutrition and how it relates to you. Please call the front desk at (920) 430-4756 to schedule an appointment with Lee.



Reference: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics