Fueling and Recovering from your Workouts



by Grace Iberle, RDN, LDN, CHC, CPT

Fueling properly for your workout can be the difference between a moderate workout and a fantastic workout. What to eat before you work out depends on how long your plan to work out and what your workout consists of. For low-intensity exercise (ex. walking for 60 minutes), you do not need to eat in advance. If you plan to exercise for longer than 1 hour at a moderate intensity, eat about 0.5 g of carbohydrate per pound of body weight, 1 hour before exercise. The timing of your workout is important to. Aim to eat a meal 3-4 hours before your workout or a snack 30-60 minutes beforehand.

Goals of nutrition before exercise

  • Consume a carbohydrate rich snack or meal to top off muscle stores. Liquid meals may be better tolerated closer to your workout
  • Include a small amount of protein to help build and repair muscle tissue.  It may reduce post-exercise muscle soreness.
  • Pick pre-workout meals and snacks that are low in fat and fiber for easy digestion.  

Pre-workout Fuel
3-4 Hours Before Exercise

  • Oatmeal with almonds, skim milk and banana
  • Peanut butter and honey on toast
  • Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie with Low-fat Granola
  • Turkey and Swiss sandwich and fruit

30-60 Minutes Before Exercise

  • Piece of fruit with small portion of nuts
  • Jam sandwich
  • Pretzels with hummus
  • Toast with peanut butter
  • Crackers and cheese
  • Granola bar

Recovery nutrition depends on the type of training session, training volume and intensity, and duration. Successful recovery will occur with proper planning. Aim to refuel your body within 30-60 minutes after exercising. Your heart rate and blood pressure are increased from your workout which enhances nutrition delivery to the muscle. The body is switching from muscle breakdown to muscle building and we want to ensure we have the proper nutrients to ride the hormonal switch. Recovery is an all-day process, so continue to eat well-balanced meals and snacks throughout the rest of the day.

Goals of Recovery nutrition

  • Restore fluid + electrolytes lost in sweat
  • Replace muscle fuel used during exercise with carbohydrates
  • Repair and regenerate muscle tissue with high quality protein
  • Reinforce muscle cells and immune system with colorful and anti-oxidant rich foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, olive oil)
  • Eat within 30-60 minutes post activity

Post-workout snacks

Recovery Snacks

  • Plain Greek yogurt with berries
  • Hardboiled eggs + piece of fruit
  • Low-fat chocolate milk
  • Graham crackers with peanut butter

Recovery Meals

  • Whole wheat pita sandwich with turkey and veggies + low-fat milk
  • Quinoa bowl with beans, cheese, salsa, avocado + whole grain tortilla chips
  • Stir fry with chicken, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots + brown rice


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