Fueling your fitness: A guide to fueling your workouts!

Are you an avid sportsman? If so then, you need to know how to fuel your fitness! Whatever your passion is—peloton passionate, hiking enthusiast, HIIT lover or power lifter—the movement required for you to excel in your sport requires energy! Energy to fuel these workouts can come from many sources: carbs, fats or proteins, but knowing the most effective and efficient way to fuel your fitness will help you excel at your sport!  

Fueling your workout properly will help to:

  • Maximize your muscle endurance and strength
  • Energize you to push harder and get in an extra rep or set
  • Delay fatigue
  • Enhance the body’s ability to use fat as fuel
  • Minimize GI upset

Fueling before the workout

If you only have 30-60 minutes before your workout ( no matter the type: HIIT, cardio, resistance training or even yoga) it is imperative to fuel yourself with a simple carbohydrate! A simple carb is one that will digest easily, and raise your blood sugar so that your muscles can easily utilize it as energy. Once you choose your simple carb the portion size does matter as you do not want to feel overfull during your workout. We recommend you have roughly 15 grams of carbs before your workout.

Simple carbs to fuel your workout:

If you have more than an hour to fuel up before your workout, then you should fuel yourself with something more substantial such as a carb paired with a protein or a fat source.

Quick combos: Carbs+ Fat & Carbs + Protein = Fueling success

  • 1 slice of whole wheat bread with 1-2 tbsp nut butter topped with 1/2 a banana
  • High protein greek yogurt topped with 1/4th cup blueberries, and 1/4th cup chopped walnuts
  • Oatmeal with almonds and banana
  • Protein PB&J smoothie: 1/2 cup frozen berries, 1-2 tbsp of peanut butter or PB fit + 2 scoops of protein powder, 1/2 cup frozen cauliflower
  • Turkey + cheese sandwich on wheat bread with milk and a piece of fruit

Maximize your recovery!

After a workout fueling is also crucial to maximize your recovery and prevent fatigue and low blood sugars! Once again it is imperative to have a combination of nutrients, specifically carbs and a protein. You may think that protein is the only priority post workout, but don’t forget your carbs as they help to stimulate a hormonal response that helps replenish your glycogen stores! The protein you consume post workout help improve muscle mass yes, but it will also reduce a spike in your cortisol, which breaks down muscle.

We recommend refueling within the first 30 minutes after your workout whenever possible, but if not fuel within at least 1-2 hours after your training session. Aim for a ratio of 3:1 carb to protein grams. If you aren’t wanting a meal yet, you can fuel with these snacks.

Post exercise fueling snacks:

  • 1 cup chocolate milk + ¼ cup almonds
  • ¾ cup Greek yogurt + 1 cup cherry berry mix + ½ cup whole-grain cereal
  • Smoothie with 1 cup low-fat milk, 2 cups spinach, 1 cup frozen fruit, and 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • ¼ cup dried fruit and nut trail mix
  • Protein shake with banana
  • Post workout snacks:

Post workout meals:

Within 2 hours, fuel your fitness with a meal. If you are at mealtime after your workout, feel free to skip the above-recommended snack. For your meals, the precise protein portion is dependent on your health goals, so it is recommended to speak with your dietitian about your specific needs, but in general we would recommend having roughly 20grams of protein in your meals. When a protein is paired with a carb after a workout your body will deliver the nutrients necessary for recovery and repair more efficiently. Having an efficient recovery from your workout is imperative so that you can continue to workout effectively the next day!

For a recovery meal, try some of these options:

  • Chicken Burritos: seasoned chicken breast ( 3oz is 25grams protein) with poblano peppers, corn and a tortilla
  • Stir-fried tofu ( 1/2 cup is roughly 20 gram protein) with rice noodles and veggies
  • Breakfast wrap with eggs( 4) with veggies and a side of fruit

If you struggle to create meals that are balanced your dietitian will be able to come up with a meal plan that works for you!

Fuel during your workout

Longer endurance workouts require more energy! Therefore during endurance workouts such as running, cycling, hiking or swimming that lasts longer than an hour, you should include additional carbs during the span of your workout. When in the middle of the workout a food or beverage you can consume quickly is optimal, such as a beverage, gel or fruit. An additional 15-25 grams of carbs can make the difference in these long distance activities.

Shorter and lower intensity workouts such as yoga, tai chi, or light walking don’t require the added carbs but it it still necessary to fuel yourself before your workout.

Fueling for those endurance workouts:

Don’t forget your fluids! 

You now know the importance of getting in the necessary energy from foods, but don’t forget that fueling your fitness requires staying hydrated as well. Staying hydrated will help in a variety of ways. You can reduce stress on the heart, maintain focus, delay fatigue, improve performance, minimize the risk of heat-related illnesses, and speed up recovery. Fluid needs vary based on your activity level but also your sweat rate. Gauge how much sweat you tend to lose as well as how lightly colored your urine is. If you tend to lose a lot of water, take these tips. Two to three hours before a workout, stay hydrated with around 16-32 ounces of water, depending on your size and water loss, then another 8-12oz within 15 minutes before your activity. Water and fluid needs are individual, so be sure to consult a dietitian. 

Pre-Workout hydration:

  • Water
  • Infused waters ( water mixed with your favorite fruits)
  • Sports drinks
  • Smoothies or low sugar juices
  • Hydrating fruits and vegetables (melons, berries, pineapple, cucumber, celery, salad) or pouches
  • Salty snacks (pretzels, popcorn, trail mix, salted nuts)
  • Soups or broths
  • Low-Sugar jello or a low sugar popsicle

Hydrating during your workout:

  • Water – you can add electrolyte packets as needed
  • Sports drink of your choice

Post workout hydration:

  • Rehydrate with 1-2 16 oz bottles of water for every pound of weight lost from sweat.

Put it all together:

The way you fuel your fitness matters and will impact your results. The amount of each food and food combination will vary greatly, depending on your intensity during the week and at each session. This is when it will be extremely important to take your workout routine and fueling plan to a dietitian.


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