Health & Medicine

Nutrition and exercise should work together. Here’s how to fuel your workout.

Grant Gensheimer
Grant Gensheimer

All too often, people treat their daily nutrition and exercise program as completely separate aspects of their health and fitness.

The focus is put primarily on exercising (calories out) with little thought given to what and when calories go in. Your exercise and nutrition should work hand in hand with each other to achieve the fitness results you want rather than separate goals to be worked on at different times.

Instead of thinking along the lines of “exercise to eat however I want,” rework this into “eat healthy to exercise however I want.” We should think of the food we eat, as well as when we eat it as a way to fuel our workouts.

When people approach their workouts under-fueled (not having eaten something within the last four to six hours), they often have poor performance. These poor workouts tend to weigh heavily on our motivation and can play a big part in why many people fail to stick with an exercise program.

When people are under-fueled, they often feel sluggish, have low energy, are unmotivated and have difficulty completing even the easiest of workouts. This makes completing the more challenging workouts all but impossible.

Some recommendations for fueling your next workout:

▪  Plan ahead and make sure you have some sort of healthy snack that is easily accessible before your workout. This might mean setting aside something the night before.

▪  Timing of your snack can be equally important. Try to consume your snack within one to two hours before your workout. That way, you are able to reasonably digest your fuel and take full advantage of the energy it will provide.

▪  Usually a healthy, low-to-medium calorie snack that includes carbohydrates and protein is a good option. Consider something like a banana with some peanut butter, or a protein shake.

▪  If you’re a morning exerciser, try to get up a little earlier to adequately fuel yourself before the workout

▪  Eating a large meal too close to your workout can lead to its own set of problems, so be careful to avoid this as well.

▪  Above all else, pay attention to how your nutrition interacts with your workouts. Keep a workout/food log and see what works best for you. If you have the best workout of your life, often what you ate that day, and when, can be just as important as the workout itself, so record it. The same thing goes for bad workouts.

Grant Gensheimer is an exercise physiologist with Baptist HealthwoRx Fitness & Wellness Center at Lexington Green.