Some days your workout is full of energy and other days you wonder if you have enough energy to make it through the first few exercises. Well, you may want to take a closer look at what foods you are eating and when you are eating them. Properly managing your meals, snacks and beverages before and after exercise can have a huge impact on your workout intensity and how well your body recovers from your workout.

Pre-Exercise Meals

Eating the right foods in the proper amount and at the right time can have a huge impact on your workout. Follow these tips to get the most from your workout:

Be sure to eat a light meal one hour before your workout to avoid fatigue. Pre-exercise snacks should be high in carbohydrates. According to the Mayo Clinic, 50 percent of calories in your pre-exercise meal should be from carbohydrates. This is important because your muscles use stored carbohydrates (glycogen) as fuel during exercise. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is an excellent pre-exercise choice. You can also choose low-fiber fruits and vegetables, pasta, rice, breads or low-fiber cereals or sports bars. Avoid foods high in fiber, such as beans, bran cereals, and high-fiber fruits and vegetables. Foods high in fiber can give you gas or diarrhea during your workout.

Avoid eating large amounts of food within an hour to an hour and a half before your workout. Eating too much reduces the amount of energy available for your workout because your digestive system needs this energy to breakdown the food you have recently eaten. This will cause you to feel sluggish, crampy and it may also cause diarrhea.

Be sure to drink plenty of water during the day and before your workout. You must drink water throughout the day to avoid dehydration. In addition, water in your blood is used to transport energy and nutrients to your muscles.

During Your Workout

Always bring water or a sports drink with you. You will sweat if you are exercising at the proper intensity. Over time, you can become dehydrated if you do not replace the fluids that were lost in sweat. If you are planning an intense workout, you should drink a sports drink because it provides a constant source of energy and certain electrolytes that are lost when you sweat. Do not drink large amounts at a single time. Instead, continuously sip throughout your workout to avoid stomach cramps.

Do not eat during a workout. This will cause you to have stomach cramps, feel nauseated and possibly vomit because there is not enough available energy that your body can use to digest food.

After Your Workout

Eat a meal containing protein and complex carbohydrates within two hours of your workout. This will help your body rebuild muscle and replenish energy stores in your muscles. This will also prevent you from feeling fatigued after your workout. Choose lean meats, fish, dairy products, beans and nuts as a source of post-exercise protein. Build up your energy stores by eating fruits, vegetables, wheat breads, wheat pasta, and brown rice.

Drink plenty of water. You have to make sure that you replace the fluids lost during exercise to avoid dehydration. Try to make it a habit to drink at least 1 cup of water after your workout and be sure to continue drinking water throughout the day.

-Jacques Courseault


The Mayo Clinic: Eating and Exercise: Time it Right to Maximize Your Workout