According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it’s important to consume the right food before, during and after the workout in order to maintain the concentration of glucose in the blood, boost the performance of exercise and advance the time of recovery. Basically, you have to think of your body as a vehicle that needs sufficient amounts of adequate fuel at the exact time to keep running properly. However, you don’t have to stick to rigid rules and strict diet program in order to fuel your exercise. But, there are certain things regarding workout nutrition you should take into consideration. So, here are some basic things you should know about how to fuel your exercise.

How to fuel your exercise before the workout?

Does your car require fuel to get the engine started? Yes, it does. And so does your body. However, what kind of pre-workout meal you’ll have, depends on the time of day you prefer to hit the gym.

If you’re an early riser who prefers to shake up their body first thing in the morning, you should consider your breakfast as a snack rather than a full meal. According to Franci Cohen – a personal trainer, exercise physiologist and certified nutritionist, the combination of whole grain cereal, few raw almonds and a glass of skim milk would be perfect to start the day with.

On the other hand, if you prefer midday exercise, you need to have a super lunch before it. At this time of the day, your blood sugar levels drop, making you feel tired and sleepy. So, you need to fuel your body with lunch that can keep you energized. Cohen suggests celery sticks with almond butter, raw raisins, and a hard-boiled egg.

In the evening, your body is already getting prepared for sleep. While your sleep hormones are rising, your energizing hormones are declining. Which means that you need an energy boost if you want to endure your evening workout. As Cohen says, green apples would be an excellent choice in this case. They contain a moderate amount of sugar, but beneficial pectin fiber. It’ll help you bypass blood sugar ups and downs.

Whatever part of the day you choose for your exercise, you have to be careful when it comes to the timing. Since your body needs time to digest food before the workout, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends fueling your body with carbs and protein one to three hours before the exercise. In case you’re short on time, opt for light meals containing simple carbs and little protein 30 minutes to an hour before exercise.

List of pre-workout foods: whole-grain cereals, whole-grain pasta, protein pancakes, fat-free yogurt and dried fruit, chicken with rice and veggies, beet juice, organic maple syrup, bananas, coffee, tea, etc.

How to fuel your exercise during the workout?

When exercising, you lose a lot of water due to sweating and heavy breathing. No matter how intense your workout is, you need to hydrate your body with a slight, but a frequent sip of water. However, make sure you don’t overdo it. As results of the recently published study in Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine suggest, excessive water drinking can lead to nausea, lightheadedness, and hyponatremia. So, simply take a sip whenever you feel thirsty.

How to fuel your exercise after the workout?

After any kind of exercise, your body needs to be fluid with the right combo of carbs and protein in order to recover. Depending on the source of information, you should grab a meal within 20-60 minutes after the workout.

Exercising triggers the breakdown of muscles. In order to rebuild them, you need to provide your body with sufficient amount of protein. Although again, the information on the necessary daily protein intake varies from source to source, you should have about 0.14 – 0.23g of protein per pound of your body weight after the workout.

On the other hand, during the exercise, your body uses glycogen as a fuel. But, carbs help them restore. The consummation of 0.5-0.7g of carbs per pound of body weight after the workout is therefore recommended.

All in all, protein helps muscle building while carbs help muscle recovery. So, in order to trigger as much of protein and glycogen synthesis as possible, you should consume both carbs and protein (in a ratio 3:1) after exercising.

List of post-workout foods: egg scramble, fresh fruit and milk smoothie, pomegranate juice, smoked salmon, sweet potato, etc.


In the end, bear in mind that above-discussed things are only general guidelines. What you’ll eat and how much you’ll eat depends on your body type and workout routine. Plus, each one of us is a unique organism functioning in its own way.