Eating and exercise: Dietitian-approved tips for when and what to eat before exercising

  • 3 Minutes Read
Joanna Kriehn
Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

Do you want to feel energized and nail your workouts? These expert tips will help you time your eating and exercise and provide you with tasty snack and meal ideas.

Eating and exercise

What’s the connection between eating and exercise?

Eating before a workout improves performance and is a smart strategy when you want to feel your best during your entire exercise session. Choosing a carbohydrate-rich snack or meal before an intense workout helps ensure your muscles and liver have the stored energy to fuel your exercise.

We break down the common situations below to determine when and what to eat before a workout.

You generally work out in the morning and are not hungry when you wake up. Is it ok to exercise on an empty stomach?

If you're walking around the block, eating and exercising is not much of a concern. However, if you want to push your body to burn calories and build strength, most people feel best after eating something light before those early morning workouts. Plus, eating before exercise helps ensure you don’t feel faint or lightheaded during workouts.

Since liquids move through the stomach faster, they are easier to tolerate when your stomach is still waking up. Are you looking for something interesting to fuel your next early morning workout? This protein and carbohydrate-rich smoothie contains 29g of carbohydrates and 22g of protein per serving and is rich in calcium and potassium. Other light breakfast foods to consider eating are:

Leaving work, you are hungry and headed to the gym. What should you do?

Strive to eat a small snack before you leave work. Fueling anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour before your workout leaves some time for digestion. For optimal fueling, choose something with carbohydrates and lean protein. These pre-workout snacks are healthy options that won’t weigh you down.

Experiment with portions and find the right amount that works for your body and health goals. Eating too much before your workout can sabotage the calories burned during exercise. This is especially important if weight loss is your primary goal.

Here’s how to structure your eating to fuel your workouts

Follow these guidelines to map out an eating plan that ensures plenty of energy for exercise.

How much should you eat before your workouts?

If you overeat before your workout, you risk digestion problems or stomach cramping.

Experiment with different amounts and food combinations to find what works best for your body. Generally, a small carbohydrate-rich snack, 30 minutes to one hour before exercise, works well for most people.

Here are some healthy options to consider.

Pay attention to how you feel during and after your workouts. Track this information with MyNetDiary’s custom tracker feature to learn what works for your body regarding eating and exercise.

Hydration and exercise

Drinking is as essential as eating when it comes to nailing your workouts. Proper fluid intake prevents dehydration. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following:

Water is generally the most effective way of restoring lost fluids from your workout. However, for activities longer than 60 minutes, you may want to consider drinking something with carbs (e.g., a sports drink) to help balance your electrolytes.

Track your fluid intake in the app by tapping on the water glasses on your dashboard or adding water or other fluids to your food record.

Don’t forget about post-workout eating and exercise

For optimal recovery, it is important to also eat after exercise. Experts recommend eating a small meal containing carbohydrates and protein within about an hour of finishing your exercise. This combination of macronutrients helps replenish your energy and rebuild your muscles. Options include yogurt and fruit, nuts and fruit, cheese and crackers, peanut butter and apple, or a lean meat sandwich. In addition to your post-workout snack, make sure to hydrate, replacing the fluids lost through activity.

It may take some trial and error to determine when to eat before your workouts and what foods settle best in your stomach.

Cheers to fueling your body to get the most out of your workouts and reach your health goals!

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Exercise->Fueling for Exercise
Jul 8, 2024
Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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