What to Eat Before, During and After Exercise

by Together Counts Partner | May 14, 2013 at 4:59 pm | comments

Overall, eating plans are great, but what you choose to eat for optimal performance and results before, during and after workouts is of equal importance. The following tips will help you maintain wellness as you incorporate physical activity into your everyday routine.

Before Your Workout:

Regular Workouts:

You should not plan on working out right after major meal times. Instead, opt for a light snack to amp your energy enough to get you through your workout. If you exercise first thing in the morning, it is best to eat something light for instant energy, as your body does not burn calories to its best ability until you have eaten something that day.


The exception would be a yoga workout, which should be done on an empty stomach. This being said, yoga should not be done while you are hungry and weak, either. So, in general, do your yoga before breakfast or 1-2 hours after eating.


If you are running a race early in the morning that will take you an hour or more, you may want to have a full, carbohydrate-rich meal the night before. An example would be a cup of rice covered with vegetables with added protein for balance. If your race is later the next day, or you don’t feel you will need the extra carb stores to make it through your race (like a friendly 5K), carbohydrate loading or eating a big meal are not necessary.

During Your Workout:

Generally, most people will not need a snack break during their workout. Most of us exercise briefly enough to not require snacking. There are a couple of exceptions. One may be that you are diabetic or have a medical condition requiring food or sugars during exercise. The other would be that you are an extreme athlete, meaning that you play a sport or are involved in an endurance activity that keeps you moving for more than 2 hours.

Acceptable snack foods would be:

  • Simple fruits, accompanied by a handful of raw nuts
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • A simple snack bar, such as Natural Plus Energy Bars.

After Your Workout:

Eating after exercise is very important; plan on eating pretty shortly, usually within the first hour after a typical workout or exercise session. Your post-exercise meal or snack should be well-balanced, including the following:

  • 1 fruit or vegetable
  • 1 portion of lean protein
  • 1 whole grain portion
  • Small portion of good fats

Whether that is a snack or meal depends on the time of day and your hunger level. Because your body has an increased metabolic rate for several hours after exercise, it will make good use of these foods, using what it needs and burning some excess.

Bonus Health Question: Did you know that the best overall recovery drink is chocolate milk? This, according to an Indiana University Study, is the perfect recovery drink because of the instant sugars to replace carbohydrates, the protein source, and the small amount of fats that balances the nutrients.

Eating a little bit throughout your day is important to keep your energy level, maintain metabolism, and balance your blood sugar. Keep in mind that too many calories leads to body weight gain, so how much you eat proves as important as how often.

How do you maintain your energy level during workouts? Share in the comments below!

This post was originally published on the Shannon Miller Lifestyle blog. The mission of Shannon Miller Lifestyle is to inform, educate and inspire women to lead a balanced lifestyle, and is targeted specifically to women with a focus on pregnancy and motherhood.