Food for Fuel


It’s one of those days. One of those days when I’m running on CoHo coffee and four hours of sleep. I have midterms to study for, papers to write, yet I’ve miraculously put on my running shoes for a much needed work out.

I pop in my Insanity DVD and feel great as I begin to start my warm up with a slow jog and leisure jumping jacks. Midway through my workout, I start regretting my decision to not eat anything before starting the video. As I hear Shaun T yelling at me to “dig deeeeeeper”, my arms feel like they’re going to give out. Why is it so hard for me to do a sit up? Have my legs always been this heavy?

If you’re like me, sometimes we overlook the importance of fueling our brains and bodies before exercising. We jump from one activity to the next, without realizing what a difference our performance would be if we grabbed something quick and simple to eat.

Here’s a quick guide on how to properly fuel before a workout:

What should I look for?

No matter what time of day you’re planning on exercising, there are some key points to keep in my mind when you’re fueling your brain and body for a work out.

  • Eat primarily carbohydrates. This is your body’s main source of energy while working out!
  • Aim to keep the amount of protein to be 12 grams or less
  • Limit the amount of fat in your meal. Fat takes your body more time to digest so eating a high fat meal can leave your stomach feeling uncomfortable during exercise.
  • Stay hydrated! Drinking simply 6 oz of fluid an hour before your workout can help you avoid feeling dehydrated, dizzy, and tired.

Leave adequate time for your body to digest. Generally, the longer you have until your work out, the more you can eat. This is because you’re giving your body a longer period of time to digest so you won’t need to worry about having an upset stomach while exercising. If you’re going to eat a larger meal, try to wait 2-3 hours before working out.

What are some examples?

Morning workout

  • Oatmeal with blueberries and a dollop of greek yogurt
  • Banana with half a whole wheat bagel
  • Hard-boiled egg with a piece of whole wheat toast
  • An apple with two tablespoons of peanut butter
  • For the light eater, try 1/2 banana or 1/2 cup of cranberry juice

Afternoon workout

  • A 200-300 calorie smoothie. This can be a great way to sneak in veggies too!
  • An energy bar that has 12 or less grams of protein
  • Toast topped with almond butter and half a banana sliced
  • A handful of nuts or dried fruit

Evening workout

  • A sandwich with whole grain bread, turkey, and vegetables. Eat it with a glass of skim milk.
  • A wrap made with whole wheat tortilla, hummus, cucumbers, and tomatoes
  • 6 oz. chicken breast with a side of broccoli

Ultimately, you need to find what works for you. When you do, you’ll feel more energized and get the most out of your workout!

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