Knowing how much and the type of fuel you need for a workout can be challenging. It’s also very personal and depends on so many different factors. If your workout is 30 to 60 minutes a day, you might not need to worry about adding additional calories, especially if weight loss is your goal. Just keep in mind hydration—it’s key to having a better workout particularly if you are sweating a lot.
When you start to increase your time and intensity, you’ll probably need more calories to get you through the workout. Start by eating a small meal 1 to 2 hour before you start to sweat— experiment to see how much time you need to digest your food. Some foods to include might be: a peanut butter, turkey or hummus sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce, tomato and avocado; yogurt and fruit; oatmeal with walnuts and raisins; or trail mix with nuts and dried fruit.
Sometimes a small snack about 30 minutes before a workout is all you need to get an energy boost to get the best workout—but it’s important to test what agrees with your stomach and what does not. Usually avoiding high fiber foods is best—a banana, a small bag of pretzels, an 8-ounce glass of orange juice might be all you require.
After your workout—don’t drink back all of the calories you burned. Hydrate with water unless you’re working out intensely for over an hour. And refuel with a healthy meal such as salad, vegetables, baked sweet potato or brown rice and grilled chicken or fish.
Registered dietician Elizabeth Fassberg runs Eat Food, a New York City-based company that designs and delivers custom food and nutrition programs for businesses, organizations and individuals. She’s coaching the Avagliano family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.