3 Tips for Fueling Your Workout

As we approach the holidays, though somewhat differently this year than in the past, the festivities should continue! As with any holiday, pre-planning your nutrition and fitness routine will help you stay in control of your holiday health and weight gain. During this time, my suggestion and goal for everyone is finding time to move. I really encourage you to find ways to move and stay active, in whatever capacity. However, if you are planning your workouts then it is also important to understand the best way to fuel for the workout – so as to achieve the best outcome and maximize your results and/or fitness goals. 


What to eat?

The first tip to consider is that a pre-workout snack, mini-meal or meal should be a combination of nutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates) and the quantity of intake depends on the type of exercise as well as the duration of exercise. 


For example, it is recommended to consume carbohydrates as the primary food source when you are performing longer duration, higher endurance training. This could be running, cycling, rowing or any kind of prolonged cardiovascular endurance training. Carbohydrates help enhance the duration of performance, which can help provide fuel when you need it the most i.e mile 20 of a 26-mile marathon. 


However, for exercises such as weightlifting, a combination of carbohydrates and protein food sources are recommended as fuel. This is because with weightlifting and target toning type exercises, the goal is to increase muscle mass, muscle tone and conversion of body fat to muscle. Therefore, protein-rich foods help stimulate the production of such tissues to help enhance muscular strength and density. 

When to eat?

The second tip is focused on timing of consumption. It is important to understand when to fuel before a workout. The average time gap from consumption of fuel to exercise performance is about 1 hour. Usually for strength or resistance training, eating about an hour before the workout is recommended.  For cardio workouts, it all depends on the duration and intensity of the workout. Therefore, the timing could vary from 30 minutes to 2 hours prior to exercise activity.  The recommendation is an average of 60-70 grams of carbs and approximately 10 grams of protein per hour before exercise activity. 


Hydrating & Post-Workout Fuel

The third tip focuses on hydration. Exercise is a physical activity that depletes the body’s electrolytes, calories and glycogen. Appropriate refueling of these is essential and completes the full circle of maximizing results. Whether your workout is focused on cardiovascular endurance or anabolic training such as weightlifting, target toning or HIT training, adequate post-workout fuel is important. In addition to hydrating during as well as after your workout, a post fuel meal consisting of a balance between complex carbohydrates and protein will help you achieve those results. 

To learn more about how to properly hydrate, check out this post!


While this may be a lot to digest (pun intended) before your holiday festivities, here is a basic recap:


  1. Your pre-workout fuel should be a combination of macronutrients – that combination is based on the duration and type of exercise. 
  2. The timing of your pre-workout fuel consumption will range from 30 minutes to 2 hours prior to workout.
  3. Hydration as well as post-workout fuel replenishment is as important as pre-workout fueling – in order to maximize fitness results. 


Here are some examples of carbohydrate dense foods:


  1. Fruits or Vegetables, raw 
  2. Toasted bread  (Whole grain, Sprouted, Multi-grain) 
  3. Old-Fashioned or Steel-Cut Oats, approximately ½ cup serving cooked 
  4. Crackers or Rice Cakes 


Here are some examples of protein dense foods: 


  1. Protein Shake (Protein powder, ice, ½ cup water or non-dairy milk) 
  2. Raw seeds, 2 TBSP – ¼ cup
  3. Raw nuts or nut butters, 2 TBSP – ¼ cup
  4. Greek Yogurt, plain, 6 oz
  5. Cottage Cheese, plain, 4 oz
  6. String Cheese 


For serving sizes or portions, reading the nutrition label is a good start to understanding how many macronutrients are in a serving size/portion. You can also consult a dietitian for meal planning assistance if weight loss is an imminent goal. 


Have more questions about fueling your workouts appropriately? Drop ’em in the comments! Follow us on Instagram @culinahealth for more science-backed nutrition tips!

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