How to fuel your workout depends a lot on individual preferences, activity types, and other things that make you unique. However, there are a few things anyone can do to get the most out of a sweat sesh.
Welcome to another great Wild Workout Wednesday Link Up where Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama and I bring you workout ideas, motivation, inspiration and recipes to try. Join us each week by reading along, linking up and grab the button to proudly display on your blog/in your posts!
Hi, I’m Sarah, a registered dietitian and nutrition communication specialist. I have a virtual nutrition coaching practice where I help active people fuel their busy lives with real foods so they can feel their best. I also blog over at Simply Nourished with Sarah, where you can find simple, seasonal recipes, tips on how to eat well without deprivation or restriction, and commentary on what’s real nutrition science and what’s just noise. I’m thrilled to be here today talking to all of you Fitful Focus readers while Nicole is off honeymooning in Europe!
As a runner, triathlete, and spin instructor I have a particular interest for helping both everyday exercise enthusiasts and endurance athletes get more from their workout through their plate. When it comes to exercise nutrition, it can be quite the controversial topic, so it’s hard to know what’s right for you! I’ve pretty much seen it all. From eating low carb diet or avoiding nightshade vegetables (we can thank Tom Brady for this one!) to paleo and vegan diets you can pretty much find someone who believes their way is the only way. While some philosophies are more backed by science than others, in the end, how you fuel your body depends a lot on individual preferences, activity types, and other things that make you unique. That said, there are a few things that every athlete, whether you’re a studio fitness junkie or a marathon runner can do to get more out of your workout.
1. Embrace (healthy) carbs.
There is an ever-growing fear of carbs these days, but believe me when I tell you: they are your best source of energy and your muscles and brain need them to function optimally! Choose nutrient dense carbs most of the time. This include fruits, starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and butternut squash, whole grains, and legumes/beans. The exception to this is if you’re < 2 hours from a workout. In that case, choose foods that contain quickly digestible carbs (read: low fiber) so that your muscles have instant access to the fuel and you don’t have food sloshing around your stomach during your workout.
2. Fuel up before your workout.
Exercising on an empty stomach is counterproductive. I promise, you WILL NOT burn more fat by exercising on empty. In fact, in the best case you won’t be able to workout as hard as you would if you properly fueled your muscles and in the worst case you could end up completely out of energy and getting light headed, passing out (I’ve seen it!), or hitting the wall, a feeling where your muscles seize up and just can’t keep moving.
If you’re a morning exerciser, eat a little something even if you’re not hungry — a little bit of energy will go a long way for your ability to push harder/longer in your workout. If you exercise later in the day and it’s been more than 3-4 hours since your last meal, grab a little something to top of your fuel tank. Your body will thank you.
Favorite pre-workout snacks:
- Dates stuffed with nut or seed butter
- A handful of dried fruit like raisins
- Banana with a small spoonful of nut/seed butter
- Chocolate Nut Butter Energy Balls (you can make them with any type of nut or seed – just follow the same proportions of ingredients)
- Half of a nut butter and jelly sandwich
- Low fiber toast with jam
- KIND pressed bars, some Larabars, or other real food bars that are lower in fat/protein and higher in carbohydrates.
Pro tip: Finding what works for you takes some trial and error as everyone tolerates different foods before a workout, especially one that involves jumping or running.
3. Refuel with a mix of protein & carbs
While most everyday athletes don’t need to stress about the perfect ratio for your post-workout fuel, eating a mix of protein and carbohydrates within an hour after your workout can speed up the recovery process so you feel less sore and more ready for your next workout. It can also help you from getting overly hungry (aka “hangry”) later in the day. Your muscles need carbohydrates to refuel and then protein to repair. This is true whether you’re running or strength training.
Favorite post-workout snacks:
- This recovery smoothie (if you don’t do dairy, use either silken tofu or a scoop of vegan protein powder — you may need to add a little extra liquid too)
- Avocado toast topped with an egg
- Yogurt parfait with Greek yogurt (or a non-dairy alternative), berries, and a mix of your favorite nuts or seeds — I like hemp, chia, and walnuts
- Cranberry Chia Overnight Oats (use gluten-free oats and if you don’t do dairy, replace the Greek yogurt with a non-dairy option). Don’t have cranberry jam? Add any fresh fruit you like.
- Nicole’s Thin Mint Energy Bites
- RX bar, Kind Protein Bar, or Perfect Bar
4. Don’t overdo it with the fueling and recovery plan.
Unless you’re training for an endurance race, training twice per day, or exercising for more than 60-90 minutes at a time, you probably don’t need to add too many snacks or meals to your day. It can lead to overeating and weight gain, which of course is not the goal for more people!
Pro Tip: Back your workout into a meal or split your meal into two parts so you don’t end up adding too many extra calories to your day.
5. Hydrate throughout the day.
It’s not enough just to drink water immediately before or during your workout. Sip throughout the day for the best results. Water not only helps you feel better through your workout, but also plays a role in the recovery process and can reduce soreness, making your next workout feel that much easier. Unless you’re training for an endurance race, water is all you need.
Pro tip: Not a fan of plain water? Try dressing it up by infusing water with fresh fruit, herbs, or cucumber. Or go fizzy with some unsweetened sparkling water flavored with a squeeze of citrus. Coffee and tea count too, but try not to overload yourself on caffeine!
Got workout tips to share? Join the Wild Workout Wednesday Link Up.
What’s your favorite pre and post workout fuel?