How should I fuel for a workout?

JJ Virgin
Health Education
My favorite pre-workout fuel is a protein shake. It's easy, fast, and satiating. I load mine with non-dairy, non-soy, plant- or animal-based protein powder, frozen raspberries, kale, avocado, and freshly ground flaxseed, with unsweetened coconut or almond milk. 
Joy Dubost, PhD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Eating right is essential to getting the most out of exercising. In this video, Dr. Joy Dubost explains what to eat and when so you can properly fuel your workout.
 
Sam I. Am
Financial Health
Pre-workout meal. Ideally, you should consume a whole food meal consisting of a lean protein source and a complex carbohydrate source 1-2 hours before your workout. This window of time allows the food to be digested and processed into your energy supply. Slow digesting, complex carbohydrates are your body's preferred source of energy, and will allow you to power through even the toughest of workouts.

Post-workout meal. Consume a meal replacement shake or bar, consisting of fast digesting carbs and protein, within 30 minutes of completing a vigorous workout. Consume another whole food meal, including complex carbs and lean proteins, 60-90 minutes after your post workout shake or bar. Every meal is important, but the meal timing surrounding your workout is crucial to maximizing gains.
    Fuel for a workout should be primarily carbohydrates. If it is within one hour of your workout, you should have a quick digesting carbohydrate such as a piece of fruit, juice, a granola bar, or a smoothie. If it is about two hours out, it can be a snack consisting of carbohydrates and a small amount of fat or protein. If you are eating about three to four hours prior to your workout, it should be a meal consisting of three food groups. If you are working out over two hours, you will need to be fueling during your workout with some form of quick digesting carbohydrate. This can be in form of a sports drink, gel, gummies, or fruit. You should be careful to practice your sports nutrition before a big event to make sure your stomach tolerates what you are eating. 
    Never skimp on calories before, during and or after workouts. One hour before or one hour after workouts is your window where you need to be sure to fuel properly. A steady aerobic effort of less than 90 minutes doesn’t demand fuel replacement (you will still need to replace fluids, but you don’t necessarily need a gel or a sport drink). Alternately, high intensity efforts do demand the replacement of calories throughout a workout, so a gel or sport drink is appropriate. Following a workout, be it a high or low intensity effort, fuel up. If you eat something following your workout you not only speed up your recovery, you also are less likely to overeat later. Don’t take this too far though, for example, a piece of fruit (100-150 kcal) is ample for a recovery food following a shorter indoor workout over the winter. Another tip is to snack frequently: We all know we make poor choices when we are starving, so try not to get to that point throughout the day. Instead eat 5 smaller meals throughout the day, every 2-4 hrs take in 200-500 kcals instead of the 1000 kcal meal for dinner.

    Continue Learning about Healthy Eating For Athletes

    Healthy Eating For Athletes

    Healthy Eating For Athletes

    Your body needs adequate fuel for athletics. Eat a healthy meal or snack loaded with proteins and carbohydrates. Consume carbohydrates like bread, pasta, fruit, cereal and vegetables so you have quick energy during exercise. And, ...

    the protein (grilled chicken, fish) you eat will help your muscles recover and grow, and also keep the blood cells healthy to deliver oxygen and nutrients. By drinking 16 ounces of water a few hours before exercise will help you stay hydrated. Its OK to use sports drinks if you perspire heavily, if the temperature and humidity is high, if you’re playing a team sport or if you’re exercising for more than 60 minutes. They provide necessary carbohydrates and sodium.
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    Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.