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Home : News
NEWS | May 20, 2019

Fuel for Workouts – What Should I Eat?

By Shari Wright West Virginia National Guard Dietitian

Thankfully it’s getting warmer out and that means more opportunities to exercise! Yay! A common question I’m asked is, what I should eat before and after a workout? This does depend on the type of work you’re doing, there’s some personal preference to take into account, and the duration of the exercise should also be considered.

Should I eat before a workout?

This is where personal preference comes in to play. How do you feel if you’ve eaten before working out? You know how you feel if you have or haven’t eaten before exercise. Personally, I eat breakfast before working out and can even eat something in the car on the way to a workout and have no problems. Long runs, no problem, short workouts, no problem but I need to have eaten. My regular Sunday morning running partner cannot eat anything before heading out the door so pay attention to how you feel.

If I do eat before working out, what should it be?

In general quick burning carbs are the best, they digest fast and are used for quick energy. If you have a bit of an off day and eat way too many doughnuts, use that fuel and take a run, make those carbs work for you! An ideal source wouldn’t necessarily be doughnuts. Instead try dried fruit, white bread (gasp), juice (double gasp), those things would be considered quick burning. I’m not saying to drink a bunch of sugar laden juice or eat a loaf of bread to take a ten minute hike and call that a workout. However, if you’re going on a ten-mile run, the juice isn’t going to kill you.  You can also drink a smoothie, have an apple and peanut or almond butter, those would be good as well. Those foods/drinks burn quickly so you don’t feel sluggish but can give you energy before hitting a trail, or whatever exercise you’re doing.

What to eat after?

Research shows that protein (AKA amino acids – the building blocks of protein) and carbs (used to replace your body’s glycogen stores), can help your body recover after exercise by rebuilding your muscle and those glycogen stores. How fast you use up your glycogen stores are dependent on the person as well as the type of exercise – endurance sports tend to use more glycogen than resistance training. The general rule of thumb is to consume a 3:1 ration of carbs to proteins; for example a snack with 5 grams of protein would go with 15 grams of carbs, don’t kill yourself trying to be exact. The timing after exercise is generally within 45 minutes of working out, again the timing doesn’t have to be exact. However, it’s thought that delaying this for an extended period may decrease your glycogen synthesis rate. Some good examples of food to eat post workout include tuna and crackers, cottage cheese and fruits, pita and hummus, Greek yogurt with berries and granola, and because I’m a dietitian, try some quinoa with nuts and berries. As always, feel free to message me if you have big workout goals or need any nutrition info!

Shari Wright Pettit MS, RDN, LD
Email: shari.r.wright.ctr@mail.mil
Phone: (304) 352-3620 Cell: (304) 719-8064

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