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Fueling for Fitness: What to Eat to Optimize Exercise, Recovery and Muscle Growth

If you find yourself feeling sluggish during exercise, struggling to build muscle or sore for many days on end, it’s possible you are not refueling properly.

While there are many sports drinks, bars and nutritional supplements on the market that claim to improve exercise performance and recovery, the best way to fuel your body is to eat real food.

Eating the right combination of foods will help energize your workouts, promote muscle growth, build endurance and enhance recovery so you feel less sore after exercising.

Follow these tips to create the optimal environment for seeing your desired gains and having the energy to achieve them.

Have a pre-workout meal or snack 30 – 90 minutes prior to exercise.

The best pre-workout snacks are going to be a 2:1 combination of produce and lean protein. The produce will provide your body with carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to energize your workout, while the protein will spare your muscle from being broken down for energy. You want to keep a pre-workout snack small so you don’t feel full or heavy and give your body adequate time to digest and absorb.

Some pre-workout snack ideas could include:

  • Berries with Greek Yogurt

  • Apple Slices and Peanut Butter

  • Grapes and a Cheese Stick

  • Banana Peanut Butter Toast

If you don’t like eating prior to exercise, it is okay to skip the snack so long as you are adequately hydrated and don’t feel weak or low energy.

The Most crucial meal is the post-workout recovery meal. Refuel your body within 30 minutes to one hour of your workout to restore drained cells with nutrients.

During this post-workout window your body most optimally and efficiently absorbs protein and carbohydrates. This is why you might see people leaving the gym with a protein bar or shake in hand.

Your Post workout meal should consist of carbohydrates to help replenish the glycogen lost in your muscles during your workout and protein which provides amino acids that facilitate muscle repair and rebuilding.

Some examples of post workout meals could include:

  • Oatmeal + Nut butter + Mashed Berries + Hemp seeds

  • Smoothie: Banana + Protein Powder + Spinach + Chia Seeds

  • Tuna on a Whole Grain Wrap + Sliced Apple + Olive Oil Mayo

  • Taco Bowl: Chicken, Quinoa + Greens + Guacamole

For someone who is regularly exercising it is recommended you consume 1.2-2 gram of protein per kg bodyweight. If you weigh 200 lbs. that’s at least 109 grams of protein daily

Hydrate: The formula for top performing athletes such as Tom Brady is to drink half your body weight in oz. of water daily.

If you weigh 200 lbs. that’s 100 oz. water daily.

The best form of hydration is good 'ole water – no need for the sugary Gatorade.

For extra sweaty days you can add electrolyte tablets to your water or a pinch of sea salt to coconut water for better hydration.

If you are training for a triathlon/marathon or in a competitive sport, there are extra things you need to consider, however this list is a great start!

Sports nutrition isn't just for competitive athletes. Your diet provides the fuel for all your physical activities, from a casual stroll around the neighborhood to a tough sweat session at the gym. Plus, if you're just beginning an exercise program, being intentional with nutrition and making smart eating choices will help you reach your goals quicker, whether it's weight loss, weight gain or maintenance.

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