What to Eat Before, During and After Exercising

Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Proper nutrition is also vital to physical health and fitness. It has been discovered relatively recently that what you eat and drink affects as much as 60% to 75% of your level of fitness. So eating right is definitely something you need to do to complement your exercise routine.


That begs the question, when should you be eating in relationship to exercising? If you have ever tried to eat a bowl of soup while running a marathon, you understand the inherent difficulties of eating while exercising. While that is an extreme example of an improper eating/exercising relationship, there are better and worse times to eat if you are thinking about exercising.


Before You Exercise


Riska Platt, M.S., R.D., is a nutrition consultant for the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. She points out that “there are no hard–fast rules” that need to be applied every time concerning nutrition and physical activity. However, she does recommend that “there are some things you should do before, during and after your workout.”


This includes fueling up 2 hours before any intense exercise.


That is the ideal situation. You need to drink water, and eat a meal with healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains or pasta, brown rice, vegetables and fruits. While protein is definitely required for building muscle, it should be avoided before your workout. Protein takes longer to digest, and could cause some discomfort while you exercise.


If you only have a few minutes before you exercise and you haven’t eaten for some time, you should still eat something. Try a banana, apple or some other “easy to digest” fruit or vegetable to provide healthy carbohydrates if you only have 5 or 10 minutes before you workout.


While You Exercise


You should drink water throughout your exercise, no matter how intense. Taking frequent, small sips of water keeps you hydrated and performing to the best of your ability. You don’t need to eat while you exercise, unless your workout takes longer than an hour. An energy bar, banana or raisins can be consumed during vigorous workouts of longer duration, and you should aim for 50 to 100 cal for every half hour of exercise.


After You Exercise


When your vehicle’s gas tank is empty, you are going nowhere. The same is true with your body. You need to re-fuel your tank after exercise. Drink lots of water after your workout is over. You also need plenty of carbohydrates and proteins.

These 2 nutrition essentials help your recovery period, which is when your body grows stronger and builds more muscle mass.


Between 30 and 60 minutes after exercise, eat a meal rich in protein and carbohydrates.


Proper nutrition and exercise can lead to a long, healthy and happy life. Just remember that these general guidelines may need to be tweaked for the unique way your body works. Use the exercise eating tips above, adjusting them as needed for the best results in your life.