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Food Fuels Your Body for Exercise!

Food Fuels Your Body for Exercise!

When exercising, weightlifting or training, it’s important to consider how your diet and hydration can impact energy levels, endurance and overall performance. The saying “you can’t out-exercise a poor diet” couldn’t be more true. Fueling your body well supports your physical performance and the overall results you will see from your workout.

Remember, you can’t out-exercise a poor diet!

Proper Fuel for Each Stage of Exercise


Before beginning any kind of training, weightlifting, or exercise, it is important to fuel your body with a pre-workout snack or meal.

A pre-workout snack is vital for performance. This is especially important before a morning workout, since this will provide your body with much-needed energy after your overnight fast. Without sufficient fuel before a workout, you may feel unmotivated, dizzy and fatigued, which are symptoms of low blood sugar.

If you only have 30-60 minutes before exercise, aim for a small amount of carbohydrate-containing foods such as one slice of toast with jelly, a small yogurt, 8 oz. of a sports drink or 4 oz. of 100% juice. If you are eating a full meal, you want to give your body at least three to four hours to digest it. A smaller meal can be metabolized in two to three hours.

In general, before workouts, it’s best to eat foods that are higher in carbohydrates, but lower in fat and fiber. Other great snack ideas include bananas, crackers, dry cereal and low-fat popcorn.

During Exercise

During any kind of training, the best thing you can do for your body is to stay hydrated. That’s why it’s important to drink at least 16 oz. of water two to three hours before your workout. Staying hydrated before and during exercise is beneficial because of the impact dehydration has on your body and overall performance.

Even 1-2% loss of body weight from water could compromise your body’s ability to regulate its temperature and may negatively impact performance. Dehydration of more than 3% of body weight will increase the likelihood of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke, while also degrading speed, stamina and overall endurance.

Depending on the intensity of exercise, it’s a good rule of thumb to drink 7 oz. – 10 oz. of water every 20 minutes. While sports drinks are popular among athletes, it’s not always necessary to drink them, unless your workout lasts longer than an hour or you are in a very hot and dry climate. Generally, water is the best source for maintaining overall hydration.


After completing a workout, you need to replenish your glycogen stores, which store energy in your muscles; this is especially important after cardiovascular workouts lasting longer than an hour. You can accomplish this by eating a post-workout snack with a four-to-one ratio of carbohydrates to protein within 45-60 minutes after a workout.

A good post-workout snack consists of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores and protein to repair and rebuild body tissues. Some examples include chocolate milk, carrot sticks with hummus, cheese and crackers, an apple with peanut butter, or trail mix with dried fruit.

In order to maximize repair and recovery after lifting weights, aim for about 20-30 grams of high-quality, lean protein within the first hour to maximize muscle protein synthesis. Ideal sources include lean meats or low-fat dairy products such as 1% milk or yogurt, which are high in whey and casein protein.

Nutrition & Hydration Fuel Performance

Proper nutrition and hydration before, during and after each workout is absolutely vital for fueling your body to achieve the results you want. Nutrition is a key component of overall health and wellness. To learn more about nutrition and available resources, visit Your Commissary’s Healthy Living page and #MountainPostLiving.

What are your go-to snacks, meals or drinks to fuel your performance? Let us know in the comments below!

(About our guest author: PFC Brittany Basye serves as the Nutrition Care Specialist for the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson.)

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