4. Eat after you exercise
To help your muscles recover and to replace their glycogen stores, eat a meal that contains both carbohydrates and protein within two hours of your exercise session if possible. Good post-workout food choices include:
- Yogurt and fruit
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Low-fat chocolate milk and pretzels
- Post-workout recovery smoothie
- Turkey on whole-grain bread with vegetables
5. Drink up
Don't forget to drink fluids. You need adequate fluids before, during and after exercise to help prevent dehydration.
To stay well-hydrated for exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you:
- Drink roughly 2 to 3 cups (473 to 710 milliliters) of water during the two to three hours before your workout.
- Drink about 1/2 to 1 cup (118 to 237 milliliters) of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. Adjust amounts related to your body size and the weather.
- Drink roughly 2 to 3 cups (473 to 710 milliliters) of water after your workout for every pound (0.5 kilogram) of weight you lose during the workout.
Water is generally the best way to replace lost fluids. But if you're exercising for more than 60 minutes, use a sports drink. Sports drinks can help maintain your body's electrolyte balance and give you a bit more energy because they contain carbohydrates.
Let experience be your guide
Keep in mind that the duration and intensity of your activity will dictate how often and what you should eat and drink. For example, you'll need more energy from food to run a marathon than to walk a few miles. And try not to incorporate any new products before a long-duration sports event. It's best to have previous experience to see how your system handles the food.
When it comes to eating and exercise, everyone is different. So pay attention to how you feel during your workout and to your overall performance. Let your experience guide you on which pre- and post-exercise eating habits work best for you. Consider keeping a journal to monitor how your body reacts to meals and snacks so that you can tweak your diet for optimal performance.
Dec. 20, 2016
See more In-depth
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- Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2016;48:501.
- Duyff RL. Athlete's guide: Winning nutrition. In: American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 4th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons; 2012.
- Whitney E, et al. Fitness: Physical activity, nutrients, and body adaptations. In: Understanding Nutrition. 14th ed. Belmont, Calif.: Cengage Learning; 2016.
- Kotecki JE. Optimal nutrition for an active lifestyle. In: Physical Activity and Health: An Interactive Approach. 4th ed. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2014.
- Timing your pre- and post-workout nutrition. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.eatright.org/resource/fitness/exercise/exercise-nutrition/timing-your-nutrition. Accessed Nov. 1, 2016.
- Laskowski ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 2, 2016.
- Zeratasky KA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 2, 2016.