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March 15, 2016

Food is Fuel

By Lauren Chandler, Exercise Science Graduate Assistant

Whether or not you are still holding true to your New Year’s resolution,  eating healthy and exercising are on the top of many  “to do” lists. But not many people understand how to combine these two together to help fuel your body when it needs it the most. There are some factors that have to be taken into account when fueling your exercise.

First, establish what kind of exercise you will be doing prior to eating. Some exercises vary in length and intensity that will ultimately determine how much you need to “fuel” your body. For a shorter circuit, i.e. lifting weights for 30-45 minutes, requires a need for both carbs and protein to help fuel your muscles. If you are running for a longer period of time, upward of an hour or more, quick digesting carbohydrates along with hydration to compensate the sweat and caloric expenditure is crucial.

Type / Duration Suggestions
Weight lifting / 30-45 minutes

-Apple and Peanut Butter

-Fruit and Yogurt

Long run = 45 + min

-Cup of Berries


It has been suggested that eating 1-2 hours before a workout is optimal. The longer the time in between eating and working out; the more food you can have prior your workout. The main goal to eating in this time frame is to allow proper digestion to occur before your workout.  If you are working out first thing in the morning, some people can rely on their fuel stores from the night before; however, this might not work for all people.

When debating what to eat, the key is to listen to your body.  Not everyone can eat certain foods before or after a workout.  If people have a problem with digesting solid foods, something like a small nutritious smoothie could be an alternative and allow for easier, quicker digestion.

Type / Duration Suggestions
Weight lifting / 30-45 minutes

-Eggs and Whole Wheat Toast

-Chicken and Rice

Long run = 45 + min

-Cup of Berries w/ steal cut oatmeal

-Salad w/ Chicken

For post workout, a mix of carbohydrates and protein are optimal at some point after your workout, and the timing of it might not be as crucial as once believed. Some people have heard about the so called “anabolic window” where ingesting carbs and protein should be 30min-1hour after working out in order to reap the most benefit. However, studies have shown that there have been little to no significant difference with the timing of your protein and carbohydrate intake post workout.

When you ingest carbohydrates and protein at some point post workout, it will help in recovery and repair. The combination of these two macronutrients will aid in restoring depleted glycogen and muscle stores. You will also want to limit fat-intake pre and post workout because it is slower digesting than carbs and protein and could possibly interfere with the digestion of protein and carbs. Fat tends to leave you feeling sluggish; which could lead to cramps. Carbohydrates are good, but avoid getting them from candy, which could cause a crash during a workout.

Fueling your body the correct way can improve and optimize your workouts, aid in proper recovery and could help prevent injury. When choosing a pre and post workout meal, make sure you listen to your body and eat the food you are familiar with. Remember, food is fuel.

For more Information visit Eating and exercise: 5 tips to maximize your workouts


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