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Eating for Exercise

Summer is a great excuse to step out of your comfort zone and jump into some new workouts, such as swimming, cycling, hiking, volleyball, or tennis. It’s also a perfect time to sign up for a new workout class to attend over the summer. Some of the up-and-coming workout crazes are floating water yoga, water cycling, and hydro-sprints (seeing a trend here?).  While trying out new sports can be easy, figuring out what to eat before and after your sweat-time may be trickier.

Optimizing your nutrition routine before and after a workout can make a huge impact on your athletic performance, as well as your body’s ability to recover and refuel for the next go-around.  



The majority of us aren’t on a Michael Phelps diet of 12,000 calories per day, but your body does need substantial amounts of fuel to exercise well.  More importantly, it needs the RIGHT kind of fuel to perform optimally. Before hitting the gym, the best energy for your body is strictly carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates provide quick and easily accessible calories to burn up throughout your workout.

Eat This:

  • Smoothies
  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Fresh or dried fruit

Not That:

  • Spicy Foods
  • High-Fiber Foods (celery, broccoli, beans)
  • Fats (Avacados, nuts, seeds)


During Workout

While working out, the rule of thumb is to avoid eating if the activity is less than one hour. Once you’re past the 60-minute mark, small amounts of carbohydrates may be helpful to replenish energy needs. Choose one example from the list below. If you continue exercising for 2-3 hours (let’s go marathon training!), considering doubling your carbohydrate snacks. Choose 2-3 examples per hour of extra workout:

  • 1 large Banana
  • 1 large Apple/Pear/Orange
  • 1 Granola/Fig Bar
  • 15 Pretzels
  • ¼ Cup Trail Mix
  • 1 Cup Cheerios
  • 1 Packet of Honey Stinger Gels



Once you’ve torched those calories for the day, the recovery time begins!  Post-workout fuel MUST include a protein and a carbohydrate together. Some fun pairings to munch on within the first 1-4 hours include:

  • Chocolate milk
  •  PB&J sandwich
  • Apples and almond butter
  • Omelet with veggies
  • English muffin and peanut butter
  • Pita and hummus

When resting later in the week, make sure to reintroduce high-fiber foods and healthy fats back into the diet.  Research shows that keeping your gut healthy between workouts can dramatically improve mood, digestion, and energy levels.

As always, incorporating a variety of foods and hitting all three macronutrients in your diet will be the key to your exercise success. Check out the recipe below for a quick post-workout snack that incorporates fats, carbs, and protein when you’re on the run. For further questions about optimizing nutrition and exercise, contact a registered dietitian in your area!




  • 1/2 cup natural drippy peanut butter or almond butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm syrup (honey also works)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup protein powder of choice (try Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides)
  • 1/3 cup flaxseed meal
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (gluten free, if desired)
  • 1 tablespoons mini chocolate chips (vegan, if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds



In a large bowl, mix together peanut butter, coconut palm syrup and vanilla extract until well combined. Add in protein powder, coconut, flaxseed meal, oats, chocolate chips and chia seeds. Mix until well combined. I usually have to use my hands to mix and work with the dough. At this point you should be able to form balls that stick together. Because all peanut butter/nut butter consistencies are different and depending on what protein powder you use, you may need to add in more nut butter or sweetener to help the balls stick together. Form into 12 balls and place in an airtight container. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week, or the freezer for a month. Enjoy!


For more information:



Clark, A., & Mach, N. (2016). Exercise-induced stress behavior, gut-microbiota-brain axis and diet: a systematic review for athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13(1). doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0155-6

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