Nutrition and ExerciseLast updated: Sep 01, 2014
Despite advertised benefits of sports drinks,
energy bars, protein shakes, and supplements,
research shows that eating a balanced diet
rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains,
lean sources of protein, and healthy fats
is all you need to fuel workouts.1
To fuel your workout:1
- Plan a meal or snack 1 to 3 hours before exercising to ensure you have the energy you need for a productive workout
- For morning workouts, drink 8 ounces of 100% fruit juice, eat 6 ounces to 8 ounce of low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit, or have oatlmeal with fresh fruit
- For evening workouts, eat a balanced lunch followed by an afternoon snack such as a piece of fruit
- Choose foods that digest quickly such as a banana or another fruit, 1 cup of cereal such as Cheerios with fat-free or low-fat milk, fat-free yogurt, or half of a turkey sandwich
- Carbohydrate-rich foods that can be digested quickly can help prevent cramping and nausea during workouts
- High-fiber foods take longer to digest, so eat lower-fiber (<3 grams of fiber) grains such as pasta or cereal
- Avoid high-fat foods that can slow digestion and cause cramping or nausea during exercise
- Include a small amount of protein such as fat-free milk, fat-free yogurt, a slice or 2 of lean turkey, or a slice or 2 of lean chicken in your meal or snack
- Drink water, fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened vegetable juice, or unsweetened 100% fruit juice instead of sports drinks such as Gatorade and Red Bull
- Runners and other high-intensity exercisers can benefit from electrolyte-containing drinks such as Nuun, Propel Fitness Water, or G2, which has half the calories of Gatorade, to replace potassium and salt
- Walkers and moderate exercisers should stick with water to replenish fluids
Elite athletes have different nutrition needs from nonelite exercisers. If you are an elite athlete, you should consult a nutritionist who can consider your weekly training plan when developing a dietary plan to meet all your needs.
After You Exercise
- Have a small, carbohydrate or protein snack such as low-fat or fat-free milk or chocolate milk, a postbreakfast veggie omelet with wheat toast toast, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, a low-fat yogurt smoothie with fresh fruit and vegetables, or a peanut butter sandwich to restore your energy
- Choose fresh fruit, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, and low-sugar granola instead of a power bar
- Dinner should include a lean protein such as grilled chicken or fish, brown rice, a salad, and a steamed vegetable
If You are Exercising to Lose Weight
If you need to lose weight, be sure to count calories for a total daily count that is in keeping with your weight-loss program. Don't forget to include calories for snacks and drinks as well as meals. It's best to avoid unnecessary calories with sports bars and protein shakes. You can use the FitDay phone app or online program to track how many calories you've consumed and how many you have burned during exercise.
It is important for dieters to eat 3 to 6 small meals a day instead of 2 or 3 large, difficult-to-digest meals. Having smaller meals throughout the day help stabilize blood sugar and preempt thoughtless, high-calorie snacking. If you need to lose weight, keep your snack at 150 or fewer calories and avoid sugary, calorie-filled sports drinks and power bars.
1. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Joint position statement of the American Dietetic Association, Canadian Dietetic Association, and American College of Sports Medicine. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009:41(3);709-731.
2. Karp J, Johnston J, Tecklenburg S, Mickleborough T, Fly A, Stager, J. Chocolate Milk as a Post-exercise Recovery Aid. Int J Sport Nut Exerc Metab. 2006:16;78-91.