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sPEAKing our minds – Fueling Your Body for Exercise

Why do you eat?  If your answer is, “Because I’m hungry.” Or, “Because my stomach growls.” Or, if you are eating on the fly, grabbing whatever is close and “easy”, you may need to refocus your efforts.  Just like you put specific gasoline in the tank of your car in a specific amount you should put specific foods in your body in specific amounts if you want your “engine” to run well and help you reach your health and fitness goals.

If you typically work out on an empty stomach, STOP!  Doing this is like heading for vacation without filling your car.  You’re not going to get anywhere, so you might as well stay in bed! When you exercise without fuel you will likely experience greater fatigue during the workout resulting in shorter and/or less intense activity.  In turn, fewer total calories and less total fat are burned during the workout.  Additionally, low blood sugar can cause dizziness, nausea, headaches and may contribute to poor recovery.  When you feel good, both mentally and physically, you get the most out of your workout.

Some general rules of thumb for pre-workout snacks include choosing foods that are:

  • Familiar and well-tolerated

  • Low in fat and fiber.

  • Moderately high in carbohydrates. 

  • Under 300 calories. 

The ideal is a light snack that provides energy without causing any digestive problems like nausea or cramping.  For best results fuel with 15-30g of easily digestible carbs and 7-10g of protein. 


  • Fruit (banana, grapes, melon—lower fiber is less likely to upset your stomach during exercise.)

  • A slice of bread with peanut or almond butter

  • A small bowl of whole grain cereal  

  • Granola bar or oatmeal

  • Graham crackers

After your workout is a good time to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes and give your body what it needs to rebuild, repair and restock energy (glycogen) for your next workout.  Ideally, eating a meal consisting of 4-6 oz. of lean protein, quality carbs, healthy (unsaturated) fat and a variety of fruits and veggies is the perfect ending to a great workout.  If you don’t typically eat a meal after your workout, then have a recovery snack of carbs and protein instead.

Examples of post-workout fuel are:

  • A tall glass of chocolate milk (10-16 oz.)  Yes!  It can be as simple as that!

  • 4-6 oz. salmon with sweet potato wedges and mixed veggies

  • 4-6 oz. grilled or baked chicken breast on a salad with a piece of fruit or whole grain roll

  • Go to your local grocery store salad bar and make one to go.

Other quick Tips:

  • Avoid fiber, saturated fats and large amounts of protein before working out.  These digest much more slowly redirecting blood flow (and subsequently oxygen and fuel) away from muscle where it is needed most. 

  • Experiment to see which foods fuel you best without upsetting your stomach.

  • As always, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Before you exercise, during exercise and all the times in between.

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