Photo: Young women smiling in a exercise room taking a brake

by Sabra Leomo, RD

Making the right choices to fuel your body doesn’t have to be difficult. There is an abundance of information available about what, when, and how to eat to fuel your workouts. While athletes such as marathon runners have more specific guidelines to follow, these 4 tips will help fuel the “everyday athlete”. 

Hello Hydration

One of the most important factors for all athletes is hydration. Dehydration impairs the body’s ability to regulate temperature and heart rate which can make you feel more fatigued. Muscle cramps are also more likely to occur if you are dehydrated and will “put a cramp” in your workout!  Hydration needs will vary among individuals depending on the environment, exercise type, and amount you sweat.

  • Be sure to hydrate before you hit the gym. 2-3 hours before you work out, drink at least 16 ounces of water and 15-20 minutes before workout drink at least 8 ounces of water.
  • While you are working out remember to drink 8 ounces of water every 15-30 minutes if you are sweating profusely.
  • After you finish your workout, replenish the fluids that you lost while sweating. 
  • For activities less than 60 minutes, water is the best choice versus sports drinks.

Pre-workout Prep

Meals or snacks before you workout help you to sustain your energy. Two to three hours before your workout, eat a meal that contains healthy carbs, protein, and fats. If you are eating within 45-60 minutes before your workout, pick something your body digests easily. Yogurt can be a great option because it contains both protein and carbs to help fuel your workout. Skip foods that are high in fat because they tend to be harder to digest; no one wants an upset stomach in the weight room!

Antioxidants for Athletes

In theory, antioxidants for athletes sound good, right? All of the stress, breakdown, and repair to our bodies during and after exercise are the perfect equation for some antioxidant action. At this time research is inconclusive about antioxidant supplements for athletes. However, antioxidants from food sources are incredibly beneficial for overall health and highly recommended. Adding more plant-based foods to your diet is a great way to fuel a healthy lifestyle.

Post-workout Plan

For recovery, prioritize protein to help build and repair your hard-working muscles. Add healthy sources of carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, or quinoa- which also packs a punch of protein. If your next meal is a few hours away have a small snack that is portable within 30 minutes of working out. It can be as simple as a banana and peanut butter. A healthy snack can also help you to avoid overeating at your next meal if you tend to get really hungry after you exercise.

Your body is a living machine. Fuel up with real and delicious food that will enable you to meet your workout and healthy lifestyle goals.