Eating and drinking properly before and after a workout are essential to fuel your body and get the most out of your exercise time. Plan ahead with these exercise nutrition fundamentals. 

Before your workout 

Eating before exercise will give you the energy you need to run, bike or lunge or kick your way through cardio, or to lift what you need to in a strength training workout. Not eating enough before a workout can lead to nausea, dizziness and low energy. It can affect your performance and even contribute to injuries. 

The best approach is to eat 1-3 hours before your workout. Here are some good choices for your pre-workout meal: 

  • Carbs Your muscles use the glucose from carbs for fuel, and the intensity of your exercise will determine how much of your glycogen store is used. When your glycogen stores are limited, you won’t have as much stamina, which can limit the length or effectiveness of your workout. 
  • Protein Eating protein (alone or with carbs) before a workout can fuel muscle growth, improve muscle recovery and increase muscle performance. 
  • Healthy Fats For longer workouts, as well as moderate- to low-intensity exercise, fat is a good fuel choice. A meal with healthy fats (like avocado, healthy nuts and nut butters) can improve your endurance. 
  • Water Make sure you hydrate before and during your workout. Aim to drink one cup of water for every 15 to 30 minutes of intense physical activity. 

After a workout 

We know your body uses up glycogen and protein stores when you exercise, so it’s important to refuel after a workout so your body can repair and grow. Eating the right foods shortly after you exercise can help your body do this faster.  

It’s best to eat a post-workout meal within 2 hours of your workout. What you eat and how much can be based on the level of exertion. For example, a yoga class won’t require as many calories for recovery as a one-hour HIIT circuit training class, or a tough session with a personal trainer might. 

Here are some key considerations to help you recover after your workout: 

  • Rehydrate The number one thing you need to do after a workout is replenish the fluids you might have lost through sweat. This is more important than eating. Aim to drink enough water so you no longer feel thirsty. 
  • Pack a snack for the road - It’s important to eat right away, so if you’re not able to eat a full meal after your workout, make sure you bring a healthy snack you can eat on the run. 
  • Carbs and protein - If you did an intense workout, you may have blown through a lot of the fuel your body had stored. The best choice to refuel is complex carbs that break down slowly and also contain healthy protein. Some options are brown rice, nuts, tofu, beans and fish. 

No matter what you do at the gym, or in your daily life, you need fuel to keep going. Choosing healthy options and timing it right can make a big difference in how you feel during a workout. Have some fun with your nutritional choices, keep drinking water and enjoy the extra energy.