Eating the Right Foods Can Help Fuel Your Workouts

A good eating routine is necessary to reach your goals in the gym and to stay healthy. A balanced and healthy diet gives you energy that can help maximize your workout. So does staying hydrated.

Ryan Szepiela, MD, ProMedica Physicians Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, explains that what you eat before and after your workout can be just as important as the workout itself.

Why is it important to eat before your workout?

Food is your fuel and so you definitely do not want to exercise on an empty stomach. Regardless of whether your goal is to build muscle or lose weight, your diet is central to this process. A healthy diet should include good lean protein and consuming a small to moderate amount of carbohydrates. I also recommend drinking at least a gallon of water per day.

You should always assess how much time you have to eat beforehand. If you are not pressed for time, I recommend having a sandwich or vegetables anywhere from two or three hours before your workout. A turkey sandwich or roasted vegetables are excellent choices.

If you exercise after work, I recommend a light snack at least 20 to 30 minutes ahead of time. A protein bar, yogurt, wholegrain toast, fresh or dried fruit are great sources of carbohydrates.

What should you avoid before working out?

It is important to be selective about what you eat before working out. You should avoid foods that are high in fat or fiber. It is not a good idea to eat a full meal before working out. This can drain your energy and may upset your stomach. It is ideal to have a light and healthy snack in advance. What is most important is to try different foods to determine what works best for you. What works for someone else may not be right for you.

Why is it important to stay well hydrated?

Proper hydration starts before your workout. It can give you more energy and ensure that your body doesn’t get dehydrated. I recommend drinking 10 ounces for every 20 minutes of planned exercise prior to exercising. If you will be outdoors or in a warm environment, such as hot yoga, you need to drink more fluids prior to the activity and it is a good idea to also have a bottle of water nearby as you start to feel thirsty. Water is the best choice. Save the sports drinks for extended training like marathon training or extended lifting.

What should I eat after my workout?

To reap the benefits of your workout, you need to replenish nutrients as soon as possible. This is important to help replace the energy that you lost and help your body recover faster. I recommend increasing your protein intake if you are trying to build new muscle or repair damaged muscle. Consuming carbohydrates is the best way to restore energy. Try having peanut butter and toast, yogurt and granola, fruit or even a glass of milk within 20 to 30 minutes after working out. This should be followed by a full meal a couple of hours later.

Why is it important to talk to your doctor about your workout routine?

It is always a good idea to talk to your family physician for guidance, especially before starting a new fitness routine. They can make recommendations to help ensure that you have a productive and safe workout based on your current health condition, any medications that you’re taking and personal health history. It is also important to pay attention to how you feel during your workout and to discuss it with your physician. Perhaps you are overdoing it or just need to try something different. I recommend working with your doctor to set reasonable goals. Remember everyone is different and you need to find the best workout routine for you.