Fuel Your Workout

man and woman working out together
By: Lora Unger, Nutrition and Health Sciences Graduate Student

No matter what type of exercise in which you choose to participate , what you eat affects your performance. Your body needs the right balance of nutrients and fluids to fuel your fitness and to help your body recover faster. The needs of individuals vary based on gender, activity level, and duration. Here are some general recommendations and tips to help you improve your pre- and post-workout routine.


Proper nutrition timing is essential. Keep in mind that recommendations vary. Talking to a sports dietitian will help you determine your specific needs.

  • Always begin well-hydrated. Drink 16-20 ounces of water 2 hours before exercise and an additional 7-10 ounces 10-20 minutes prior to your workout.
  • Consume a well-balanced meal or snack 1-2 hours prior to working out. Strive to include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats in your meals. Whole fruits, toast, and other foods high in carbohydrates are excellent snack choices to consume before a workout since carbohydrates act as an energy source for the body.


Consuming the right amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fluids will help you recover fully and prepare for the next workout. Research has found that your body is best able to replenish if post-workout snacks are consumed within 30 minutes after completing the exercise. Plan ahead and have a snack with you or head to the dining hall for a refuel!

  • Carbohydrates: Needed to help replenish the glycogen stores that were lost during the workout. Fruit, dried fruits, oats, rice, pasta, wheat bread, granola, cereal, and potatoes are examples of sources to include.
  • Protein: Necessary to repair muscle tissue and reduce muscle breakdown. Great sources include milk, nuts, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, eggs, lean meat, poultry, and fish.
  • Fluids: Strive to hydrate with 16-24 ounces of water for every pound lost during the workout.
  • Sports Bars: Choose bars that are both high in protein (10-15 grams) and high in carbohydrates (35-50 grams) for post-workout snacks.
  • Chocolate Milk: Research shows that chocolate milk is a great post-workout fuel source. It contains both the protein and carbohydrates needed to help your body refuel. If you have a meal plan, stop by the dining hall for a glass!
  • Post-Workout Snacks: Create your own snack by combining foods that contain protein and carbohydrates. For example, try granola or cereal with Greek yogurt, a peanut butter sandwich, or trail mix.

Hydration is Key

Staying hydrated is important, especially when exercising. Your body should be well-hydrated before and during exercise to help:

  • Minimize fluid loss
  • Regulate body temperature
  • Avoid electrolyte imbalances
  • Delay fatigue
  • Improve ability to recover

For more information contact: Pam Edwards, University Dining Services, [email protected]