Supporting Movement through Nutrition

By Amber Worthen, RD, LDN, NASM-CPT

If a car doesn’t have fuel, will it move? You’ve heard the analogy of food to a human body being similar to fuel for a car. Without it, we can’t function properly, and will not have the energy to effectively be physically active. Let’s run through some basics of eating for optimal activity.

Carbs for Fuel


Carbohydrates, which are broken down to glucose, are our main source of energy. This is stored both in the liver and muscles as a ready source of energy for our body to work off of. Complex carbohydrates are important to include in our diet, as these provide a more constant flow of sugar to the bloodstream. In opposition, simple carbohydrates such as a candy bar provides quick energy, a quick rise and fall in blood sugar levels. Examples of complex carbs include whole grains (whole wheat, quinoa, brown rice, bulgar, etc.), and starchy vegetables. These are beneficial to include in a typical diet to support overall movement and energy. A lack of carbs can lead to fatigue, mind fog, poor energy levels, and various other symptoms that lead to inactivity.

Eating for Pre and Post Workout

“Pre/post workout” meals and snacks focus on the foods and nutrients that are most beneficial before and after a workout for optimal energy and recovery.

A good pre workout snack will be eaten 1-2 hours before physical activity, consist mainly of carbohydrates and some protein, and be lower in fat so that digestion is not slowed. Examples of pre-workout: fruit, oats, crackers with cheese, toast, etc. The main purpose of pre-workout snack is to provide energy, and keep you somewhat satiated throughout your workout.

A proper post-workout snack will be consumed within an hour following a workout. It will contain a form of carbohydrates to replenish energy, and protein to restore muscle. Some examples include: yogurt with granola, chicken salad sandwich, protein smoothie with fruit, pretzels and hummus, etc. The main purpose here is to restore glucose to the cells, and allow for optimal protein uptake for the muscles to begin repairing and regrowing tissue. It is also extremely important to re-hydrate after exercising.

The more you support your activity through nutrition, the more benefit you will see. It’s extremely difficult to get through a workout when you’re tired, hungry, and low on motivation. By supporting your activity with nutrition, you can work harder for longer, and have the energy you need to get the most out of your workout!

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