Written by Karah Ehrhardt, Director of Wellness, Active Wellness

As Health and Fitness professionals, we get this question all the time, what should I eat before, during and after my workouts? Eating well and timing nutrients can greatly improve performance, recovery, and daily life. However, most of us often overlook the importance of this. We forget to eat, we skip meals, we drink too much caffeine and not enough water – the list can go on and on!

It’s so important to remember that nutrition and physical activity need to go hand in hand. You need to properly fuel and hydrate your body for it to function well and feel good. Just like our cars, your body needs to run on some kind of fuel to perform. 

The question is, how do you fuel yourself properly for activity? Two components to this are nutrients and timing. First, let’s look at the nutrients our bodies need to sustain life:

  1. Carbohydrates 
  2. Protein
  3. Fat
  4. Minerals
  5. Vitamins
  6. Water

The nutrients we are going to focus on here, as they relate to physical activity, are carbohydrates, protein, fat and water. Vitamins and minerals are naturally found in nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and proteins, which are high in carbohydrates and protein. The next question is, “when do I eat each of these?”

First, to fuel our bodies for a workout:

Before a workout, the most important nutrient is the one that fuels our muscles and our brain which is carbohydrates. If you need to know one thing about carbohydrates, it’s that they provide energy. While it’s okay to eat protein and/or fat before a workout to fight off hunger, it must be combined with carbohydrates to give any benefit to our muscles in the upcoming exercise.

A fruit like a banana or an orange is a perfect pre-workout snack if you are exercising 30-90 minutes. Keeping it simple is what we like to advise.

Second, to maintain energy throughout the entire workout:

Unless we are working out in extreme heat, water will suffice for a 30-90 minute activity window. There is no need for sports drinks or protein during a workout, as your pre-workout carb should fuel you the entire way. If you are working out in extreme heat, or may not be adequately hydrated, think about an electrolyte drink.

Electrolytes, which are minerals like sodium, potassium and magnesium, help balance fluids in the body and keep you hydrated. They can help aid performance, improve cognition, and strengthen muscles and bones, just to name a few. Adding electrolytes to your water before, during, or after exercise can help you stay hydrated.

Finally, to allow recovery after a workout:

As soon as possible after a workout, muscle recovery must include consuming both protein and carbohydrates. If carbohydrates like fruit are consumed on their own, our energy will be replenished, but our muscles will have nothing to use for recovery.

If protein is eaten alone, like a basic protein shake or eggs, the protein will be converted into energy to fuel the body and brain and will not go toward our muscles. Therefore, eating both carbohydrates and protein is essential. Try yogurt with fruit, eggs and toast, chicken and rice or our featured recipe, Turkey and Sweet Potato Skillet

Using these nutrient and nutrition timing tips is sure to help you thrive in your workouts and daily life. If you have questions, let us know how we can help!

Team Active content is not medical advice; it’s inspiration to LIVE ACTIVELY. Operating five Active Wellness Centers in California and Oregon, Active Wellness strategically partners with hospital systems like Providence in Petaluma and Napa, California as well as Lake Oswego and Hillsboro, Oregon. Active Wellness Center at NorthBay Health is powered by NorthBay Health in Vacaville, California. 

Active’s strategic healthcare partnerships demonstrate our commitment to supporting healthy lifestyles in the communities we serve. More than just a gym – Active’s community health clubs provide motivating programs in fitness, weight loss, cardio, strength-training, medical fitness, aquatics and swim lessons, youth fitness, childcare offerings, and studio group fitness classes including yoga, Zumba®, barre, Pilates, dance and cycling. * 

With many offering indoor and/or outdoors pools, steam rooms, saunas and luxurious locker room amenities, each club is uniquely designed to serve its local community in living healthier, stronger, more active lives.

Check the Active Wellness Center blog often for more healthy lifestyle tips and resources to support your active lifestyle! Click here for a free guest pass to your local Active Wellness Center. 

*Active Wellness Center’s program and facility offerings may vary by location.