(This will not require you to drink raw eggs, like Rocky)

If our bodies are machines, learning to run them properly rests upon how we are fueled. Like a new, luxury sports car, we may have the capability of 300 horsepower but not if leaded standard gasoline is selected at the pump. In short, if you expect finesse, speed, and recovery from physical activity, feeding yourself before and after is a must.

This does not mean any old snack will make the cut. As we know, dietetics is a true science and you require specific nutrients during each stage of your routine. Somewhat obviously, there are three stages of workout nutrition: before, during and after. Ready, set, go!

Before Exercise:
One of the biggest exercise-myths out there is that forgoing food before a workout when hungry will “burn fat.” Instead, our bodies are forced to rely on whatever fuel is handy. During a morning workout, this means we are left with the few carbohydrates that remain (as 80% have already been burned in the simple act of sleeping,) and/or essential proteins, such as muscle. It’s time to abandon the dated idea that carbs are “the enemy.” In reality, they are your body-and waistline’s- best friend. Carbohydrates provide the fast energy you need to power through cardiovascular exercise, contract muscles, breathe deeply, and give your brain a boost. Protein isn’t as important at this stage, because it will not raise your blood sugar (i.e. give you a jolt of energy.) If you exercise into the early evening, your afternoon snack from a few hours earlier should fill your nutritional needs. No matter the time of your sweat-session, follow the carb-rule for best results.


. Fruit-Any type of whole fruit is an ideal pre-workout pick. If you must have canned fruit, please select those without added sugar and not packed in syrup. For short workouts, fruit juice is a great option because it is a very simple carb that your body breaks down almost immediately. Just keep it to one cup and be sure it isn’t from concentrate. Unpasteurized apple juice with cinnamon is perfect, because the spice gives your metabolism an added boost!

. Nuts/seeds-A small handful of nuts or a nut-based bar (try KIND bar!) gives you all the essential macro-nutrients (fat, carbs, and protein.) New studies also show that, because nuts require involved chewing, your brain gets the “full” and signal much sooner, so you feel satiated quickly !

. Steel-cut oatmeal-This is a great choice for you early birds. Steel-cut oats are digested very slowly, so your energy is evenly dispersed throughout a sweat-session. A comforting bowl of oatmeal is perfect for those of you who find yourself “burned out” midway through a cardio routine.

Side-note: you can replace breadcrumbs with steel-cut oats in any recipe! Simply chop them finely with a sharp blade or food processor and use to bread chicken, fish, or in meatloaf recipes! This is a great way to avoid the white, refined starches that may increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease… still enjoying your favorite foods!

During Exercise:

During a workout, your mantra should be “Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!” Keeping yourself hydrated is especially critical during exercise, because we lose it in increased respiration and perspiration. A well-hydrated body means regulated body temperature, fewer injuries due to lubricated joints, and the transfer of nutrients throughout the whole body. Here are some great ways to shake up your hydration process:

. If drinking water is an onerous task for you, try jazzing up H20 with a squeeze of lime and a few crushed raspberries, or mint leaves and pomegranate seeds. (In a pinch, HINT water is a great, all-natural choice that is free of artificial flavors, calories, and preservatives. You can find it at most supermarkets in fun flavors such as Hibiscus Honeydew and Mango Grapefruit.

Look out for my next blog on the good and bad sports drinks out there. Knowing what to embrace-and avoid-in sports nutrition is a must for your health.

After Exercise:

After torching calories for a concentrated amount of time, a snack starts to sound pretty good! To understand what your body needs at this stage, think of exercise as a bicycle: once you gain momentum, all you need to do is cruise. Similarly, your heart rate will stay at an elevated level and you will continue to use calories even after those running shoes are put away. After a workout, your focus should be on replenishing depleted reserves of energy and setting up your muscles for easy repair. This means carbohydrates and slow-burning proteins are on the menu. The combination will a) continue to stoke the fire of your metabolism with a carb and b) feed your system in the hours to follow with protein. This will prevent you from “crashing” or reaching for sugary, fatty snacks later to compensate for the fatigue that comes with physical activity.

Some perfect options include:

. A protein shake–Protein shakes are a great option for those of you who are in a hurry and don’t have time to sit down to eat. For a delicious, lean shake, blend together:

. 1 scoop of brown-rice protein powder (A great vegan/vegetarian option without chemicals or additives)
. ½ Banana
. 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
. Crushed ice

. A rice cake with peanut butter (optional: top with ½ banana, sliced)

. Plain Greek yogurt with a handful of fresh berries– Greek yogurt is a nutritional superstar, as it boasts 15-20 grams of protein in just 6 ounces (the same protein-content as 3 ounces of meat.) Ordinary yogurt contains just 9 grams of protein, meaning you’ll be hungry sooner. The berries provide antioxidants, Vitamin C, and sweetness. Make sure you select a true Greek yogurt. It has become a buzzword in the dairy industry, recently. Many varieties are labeled “Greek,” but are really just ordinary yogurt with thickening agents. Some terrific brands are Fage, Chobani, and Nancy’s.

Fueling up the right way will give you stamina to get though the whole day… and not just in your exercise routine. Don’t let yourself run on empty if you want to join the races!

i. Cassady BA et al., A J Clin Nutr 89 2009 794