Food Fuel: What to Eat Before (and after) You Exercise

Getting the right food and fluids into your system before you hit the gym is a  crucial component to your workout. According to the American Heart Association, failing to fuel up before you work out is akin to driving a car on empty, so try to consume food before and after you exercise, and drink small, frequent sips of water throughout your gym session. This will help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance, and improve recovery time. The alternative is low blood sugar, which can lead to light headedness and fatigue. Here are some of the best foods to fuel you through your workout.


Besides being one of the most coveted snack foods, hummus is rich in complex carbohydrates and protein. Combine the two and you have the perfect combination to power you through your workout. Try using hummus as a sandwich spread instead of mayo. For a post-workout nutrient boost, try a tuna, hummus, and spinach sandwich on whole-grain bread.  

Tip: Consume easily digested carbohydrates that won’t leave you feeling sluggish.



Fiber-rich oats will keep your energy levels up throughout your sweat session, and their vitamin B content will help convert carbohydrates into energy.

Did you know: In the 20 to 60 minutes after you exercise, your muscles can store carbohydrates and protein as energy.



Not a meat eater? No worries, there are still plenty of ways to fuel up on the protein you need to get you through your workout. For instance, Greek yogurt has plenty of protein, and mixing in antioxidant-rich berries will help to protect muscles from potential damage.

Tip: In a rush? Grab a piece of fruit like an apple or a banana, which will give you a quick boost.  Plus bananas are full of potassium, a nutrient that aids in nerve and muscle function.  



Crunch on these orange beauties before a workout to ramp up your energy. They’ll also provide you with potassium to keep muscle contractions at bay.

Did you know: Foods with protein can help to repair and grow muscles after a workout.



Since complex (not simple!) carbohydrates are a key player in energy production, it only makes sense to nosh on a slice of whole-grain bread or a whole-grain bagel before you get your heart rate up. Pair it with healthy proteins like turkey or an egg for an added steady flow of energy.

Tip: If your workout lasts more than an hour and is high-intensity, eat 50 to 100 calories of carbs every half hour. An energy bar or banana will do the trick! 



Carrots aren’t the only orange super food on our list. Oranges add a citrus kick with plenty of vitamin C, which helps repair muscles and bone-strengthening collagen.

Tip: Fuel up with water and food two hours before you exercise.


Chocolate Milk

It seems like a treat (and it kind of is), but chocolate milk packs in calcium for strong bones, and it’ll repair muscles after a workout thanks to its carbs and protein. Count it as a fluid too, as its water content will help replace what you lost through sweat.

Tip: Avoid fatty foods pre-workout, as they can leave you feeling lethargic. Also avoid sugar, which can give you a quick rush, but can result in a crash.

chocolate milk

Don't Forget to Drink Up.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you:

  • Drink roughly two to three cups of water during the two to three hours before your workout.
  • Drink about a half to a cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. Adjust amounts related to your body size and the weather.
  • Drink roughly two to three cups of water after your workout for every pound of weight you lose during the workout.

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