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Eat To Perform

Eat to Perform Every Day: How to Fuel your Body for Exercise!

PFC Brittany Basye, Nutrition Care Specialist (68M) & CPT Brigette Grimes, MS, RD, CSSD
July 20, 2018

When exercising, weight-lifting, or training, it is important to consider how your diet and hydration can impact energy levels, endurance and overall performance. The saying “you can’t out-exercise a poor diet” couldn’t be more true. How you fuel your body is indicative of how well you are going to be able to perform and the overall results you will see from that workout. Here are some key considerations regarding how to fuel around exercise.


Before beginning any kind of training, weight-lifting, or exercise, it is important to fuel with a pre-workout meal or snack. A pre-workout snack is often overlooked, however, it is vital for performance. This is especially important before a morning workout since this will provide your body with much-needed energy after the overnight fast.  Without sufficient fuel before a workout, you may experience a lack of motivation, dizziness, and fatigue, which are symptoms of low blood sugar. If you are eating a full meal, you want to give your body at least 3-44 hours to digest. A smaller meal can be metabolized in 2-3 hours. If you only have 30 to 60 minutes before exercise, aim for a small amount of carbohydrate-containing foods (i.e., 1 slice of toast with jelly, small yogurt, 8 oz. of sports beverage, 4 oz. of 100% juice). In general, before workouts, it is best to eat foods that are higher carb, lower in fat, and lower in fiber. Some other great snack ideas include bananas, crackers, dry cereal, and low-fat popcorn.

During Exercise

During any kind of training, the best thing you can do for your body is to stay hydrated. Two to three hours before engaging in exercise it is important to drink at least 16 oz. of water. Staying hydrated before and during exercise is so beneficial because of the impact dehydration has on your body and overall performance. Even 1 to 2 percent loss of body weight from water is capable of compromising the body’s ability to regulate temperature and may negatively impact performance. Dehydration of greater than 3 percent of body weight will increase the likelihood of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke while also degrading speed, stamina, and overall endurance.  Depending on the intensity of exercise, it’s a good rule of thumb to try to ingest 7 to 10 oz. of water every 20 minutes. Gatorade is a popular choice among athletes; however, drinking one of these sports drinks is not always necessary unless your workout lasts longer than one hour or you are in a very hot and dry climate. Water is the best source for maintaining overall hydration.


After completing a workout it is important to replenish your glycogen stores (the storage form of energy in your muscles), especially after cardiovascular workouts lasting longer than an hour. Consuming a post-workout snack with a four to one ratio of carbohydrates to protein within 45 minutes to one hour after a workout is effective for maximizing glycogen stores. A good post-workout snack consists of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores and protein to repair and rebuild body tissues. Some examples include chocolate milk, carrot sticks with hummus, cheese and crackers, peanut butter and an apple, and trail mix with dried fruit. In order to maximize repair and recovery after lifting weights, aim for about 20-30 grams of high-quality, lean protein within the first hour to maximize muscle protein synthesis. Ideal sources include lean meats, or low-fat dairy products (i.e., 1% milk or yogurt) which are high in whey and casein protein.

Pre-workout, during workout, and post-workout nutrition and hydration are absolutely vital for fueling your body to accomplish your goals and achieve the results you want.  By fueling more effectively, it is possible to enhance performance in order to perform to the best of your abilities.

Find more articles from Mountain Post Living. Nutrition is a key component of overall health and wellness. How we fuel our bodies every day will determine our ability to reach our goals.

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