Unified Health

Eating to Fuel Fitness

No matter where you are on your healing journey, food plays a vital role in recovery, mental health, and optimal performance. Making the right food choices for you and what stage you are in can make a huge difference, whether that’s just starting a fitness program, re-building strength following an injury or illness, or are the top of your game and want to get the most out of every workout. Knowing what foods will help give you that little bit extra can be the difference between feeling energized and enthusiastic versus depleted and exhausted. 

Sitting down with a dietitian or nutritionist to develop a personalized plan, including meal planning and tips and tricks to get the most out of every work out and achieve your fitness goals, can be a really smart choice. Here are some generalized guidelines for getting the most out of your food choices while starting out on your fitness journey:

1)  Eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods: Include whole grains (such as whole-wheat bread and brown rice), lean protein (crucial for repairing and building lean muscle tissue - research shows that for appetite control and gaining or maintaining lean tissue, it's most beneficial aim to eat about 15 to 25 grams at each meal or snack), healthy fats (great for hormones regulation), fruits and vegetables. 

2)  Drink enough water: How much water is enough? Everyone has slightly different needs, but the Institute of Medicine recommends roughly 13 cups of total beverages a day for adult men and 9 cups for women.

3)  Pre-exercise: Eating a snack or small meal one to four hours before exercise containing a mix of healthy carbohydrate-containing foods with moderate to low protein and fat is a good choice before working out. Some good examples include: 

  • Greek yogurt with fruit

  • Banana with peanut butter

  • Oatmeal and berries

  • Turkey sandwich

4)  Post-exercise: After your workout, you’ll need to replenish the glycogen lost in your muscles during your workout, as well as facilitate muscle repair and rebuilding. Eating a snack or meal consisting of both carbohydrates and protein can help you accomplish this. A few post-workout snack ideas include:

  • Tuna on a whole-grain wrap

  • Low-fat chocolate milk

  • Fruit smoothie with Greek yogurt

  • String cheese with an apple

Remembering that the foods that we eat can have a huge impact on our moods, ability to focus, recovery times and ability to perform tasks can help us to stay focused on making healthy choices. Having a goal you would like to accomplish can help you remain motivated while you learn what foods work best for you to fuel not only your workouts, but your life as well. 

Lizane Tan