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  • Kelli Foerster

5 Nutrition Tips for Better Workouts

Updated: Dec 8, 2023



The topic of fueling for exercise is often either overcomplicated or completely misguided. It's important to define the why behind the intention of optimizing nutrition for fitness. Even if you aren't a competitive athlete or looking to do anything groundbreaking at the gym, you still need to provide your body with fuel to exercise in a way that benefits your physical health. This article will discuss five helpful nutrition tips to help you optimally fuel your workouts.


1. General Nutrition: For the average person, the best way to optimize your workout efforts with nutrition is to have consistent and nourishing daily nutrition habits. Before we consider specific foods to eat before, during, and after a workout, we must ensure our daily nutrition habits are optimized. Within the BOLD Nutrition framework, we consider basic dietary habits, mindset, binge eating/overeating tendencies, under-eating/restriction tendencies, or stress around food and your body. Oftentimes, the low-hanging fruit, like, eating enough, eating more whole foods, establishing a positive relationship with food, and having healthy habits like good sleep and stress management, are the things that will have the biggest effects on your workouts and fitness progress.


2. Pre-workout fueling: You must fuel your body with food before exercising; Fasted workouts are rarely optimal. Choosing the right amounts and the right types of food before exercise can help you perform better and therefore, get better results. Carbohydrates are the body's preferred energy source during exercise and should be consumed before working out. Each person's needs, preferences, and tolerability to food before different types of training will vary. Oftentimes, eating a high-fiber or high-fat meal before exercise will be hard on the digestive system and not supply adequate energy. Simple carbs, like bread, fruit, potatoes, and crackers, are often perfect pre-workout snacks. While the priority is carbohydrates, it is also often beneficial to eat some protein before training as well. If you track your food or want to know specific amounts of food and nutrients that would be optimal for you, it's best to work with a sports CNS or RD.


3. Post-workout fueling: The food you eat after exercise helps you to recover by replenishing and providing the body with the nutrients it needs for a quicker turnaround, i.e. getting your body recovered enough before your next workout. Eating protein and carbohydrates following a workout is the simplest, most effective way to refuel. Protein provides the muscles with amino acids to repair and rebuild the tissue. Carbohydrates not only replenish the used-up carbohydrates that the body uses as energy during exercise, but they also spare protein, which helps prevent the breakdown of your body's tissues, including muscles and organs, for protein. While there is no exact ideal "window" for optimal refueling, it is best to consume carbohydrates and protein within the hour of your workout.


4. Intra-workout fueling: This may not apply to everyone, but those who participate in physical activity lasting over one hour may benefit from not only fueling before and after a workout but also during a workout; This is known as intra-workout fueling. As mentioned above, carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for the muscles during physical activity. Carbohydrate resources are limited in the body, and when they run out, oftentimes, so does your ability to maintain physical activity. The general rule of thumb is if you are doing any sort of exercise or physical activity for longer than one hour, you might consider replenishing energy sources by intaking carbohydrates. This is often very helpful for long-distance runners, those who play sports, and even those who have jobs that are physically demanding. Intra-workout fueling options with carbohydrates often include fruit, granola bars, sports drinks, gels, and chews. Recommendations are often very specific for different circumstances, depending on the length of performance/exercise, the intensity, the ability to eat, and the type of movement. You should work with a sports CNS or RD for targeted advice.


5. Hydration: Hydration is necessary for adequate energy metabolism and therefore plays a huge role in exercise performance and recovery. Not only is it important to replenish fluids that you lose through sweat, but it's also vital to optimize hydration throughout the entire day and BEFORE you lose sweat! Make sure to hydrate before exercise (~1 hour before) and after you exercise to prevent dehydration. Depending on your specific needs, you may consider an electrolyte to optimize your hydration. You can read all about electrolytes and which ones are best for you in my previous post, Electrolytes and Hydration Drinks: How to Optimize Your Hydration. Don't underestimate the power of hydration!


In conclusion, properly supplying your body with the right food and hydration at the right times can dramatically improve your workout performance, stamina, and recovery, which will help you see more results and reach your goals. Ensuring a proper diet throughout the day, without skipping meals, is the first consideration. Then fueling adequately before, during, and after your workouts will provide targeted support to your workout performance. Last but certainly not least, optimize your hydration to ensure optimal performance!


Need help creating a personalized nutrition plan? I'd love to help you; Check out my nutrition services!

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Meet Kelli Foerster

MS, CNS, CPT

 

Kelli is a functional nutritionist specializing in clinical and behavioral nutrition.  Kelli is the creater of The BOLD Nutrition Method, which utilizes advanced, evidence-based nutrition and fitness and presents it in a digestible, practical way, leaving you feeling equipped, confident, and bold. 
 

Interested in working with Kelli?

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