Eat Your Way to a Better Workout

Believe it or not, food doesn’t just affect the number on the scale. Certain things we put in our stomach can mess with our moodcause sleepiness or even interfere with a successful workout. The latter can truly be a nightmare for anyone seeking to rev up their fitness.

The good news: Avoiding fitness food foes isn’t as tough as logging those last five minutes on the treadmill. Experts weighed in on the food and workout plan made for 2017 success.

Define the workout

What to eat prior to exercise depends heavily on the intensity of the workout and the individual, said Lisa Avellino, the fitness director for NY Health and Wellness. For a light to moderate workout, a fruit or smoothie are ideal options since they’re easy for the body to break down. “[These] can digest and affect your blood sugar levels in a positive way within 15 [to 20] minutes of ingesting,” she said. For a long-distance run or more intense workout, a meal combining a carbohydrate and protein is recommended at least 30-45 minutes before working out. Some great options include legumes, quinoa or chickpea pasta along with an alternate source of protein.

Think about ratio

“You don’t want 10oz of steak or 10oz of fish and a very small amount of a carbohydrate because then you won’t have the sustainable energy,” said Avellino, a fitness expert with more than 30 years of experience. A proper ratio also makes it possible for the food to be released more slowly into the system.

Focus on quality

quinoa, parsley and vegetables

image: anna_shepulova

Forget drive-thrus and donuts; the quality of food is important regardless of the type of workout. These types of meals, especially sugar, are hormone disrupters that affect hunger and the body’s ability to store fat, Avellino added.

Avoid bloaters

What could be worse than working out with gastrointestinal issues? Lauren Kelly, a registered dietitian based in New York, advised avoiding foods that are high in fat and fiber before a workout because they can cause gas and bloating. “So no avocados an hour before your workout!” said Kelly, who is also a certified vinyasa yoga instructor.

Drink more water

This is something we’ve been told our entire lives, but some people tend to skimp out on fluids. When exercising regularly, it’s important to drink more water because “dehydration can definitely make your energy level go down and then you’re not able to fuel through your workout as well,” Kelly said. She suggested adding an additional 6-12oz of water to the longtime recommended eight 8oz glasses a day.

Concentrate on chewing

woman chewing

image: centralitalliance

Rushing through a meal isn’t unusual during a busy day. But this bad habit interferes with proper digestion, Avellino pointed out. She stressed taking smaller bites and chewing between 20-30 times.

Post-workout recovery

Focusing on the body after a workout is just as important as pre-workout rituals. Experts recommend having protein about 30 minutes after a workout. “Muscles break down so we want to make sure that the muscle can rebuild itself and repair itself,” said Avellino.

anna halkidis

anna halkidis

Anna Halkidis is a senior web editor at Long Island Pulse. Feel free to reach out at or on Twitter @annahalkidis.