Eating to Fuel Particular Styles of Fitness

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Whether you are aiming to lose or add weight, get stronger, or move faster, consuming foods which support your fitness can allow you to achieve these goals by feeling energized during your workout and being able to recover well after your workout.

First let’s discuss how different workout formats utilize your stored energy from the foods you consume.

Heavy strength (resistance training) or weight-lifting days:

Heavy weight-lifting utilizes glucose (sugar from carbs) which is stored inside of your muscles. This is sugar which has been carefully supplied and is not easily accessible or re-fillable. Due to this, your body requires your carbohydrate intake to be more focused POST-workout rather than PRE.

Heavy “cardio” or aerobic days:

30 minute sustainable, repeatable shorter sustainable pieces, intervals such as EMOMS or rounds for time with rest all fall into this category where you are ideally moving at a consistent pace over time, with or without rest. This type of fitness accesses glucose (sugar from carbs) that is floating in your bloodstream or is stored inside of your liver. Basically, your blood sugar is accessed first, and as that depletes, your liver breaks down its stores to keep refilling your blood levels. This is where carbohydrates are immediately sent when consumed and why this type of fitness requires more carbohydrates focused PRE and INTRA workout rather than POST.

Mixed days with high intensity or a higher level of desired effort/output:

Rounds of increasing effort or pieces for time fall here. Basically anything that will exhaust and/or drain you in a way that is a clearly an unsustainable pace or effort. This type of day requires carbohydrate intake to be even PRE, INTRA, and POST to ensure all of your sugar stores are full and prepared, constantly refilled over time, and then replenished post fitness to ensure proper recovery.

No matter what, you should still be consuming a pre and post workout snack/meal, this information more just lets you know how to maximize your performance and recovery by ensuring larger amounts of carbohydrates sit in certain time frames based on the workout format.


Now that you have some background on how your carbohydrates are used to fuel fitness, let’s discuss WHEN you eat these foods.

The pre-workout timing is somewhat dependent upon the size of the meal, however the 1.5-3 hour range is a good standard time frame, aiming to FINISH your meal completely with 1.5 hours to spare prior to warming up for your workout.

As for post-workout meal timing, if you’re consuming a protein shake then you can wait a bit longer. If not, then you should consume your post-workout meal 40 minutes to 1 hour post-workout. If you have a shake immediately after your workout, then aim to get your meal in an hour and 30 min after or sooner. In order to do this, ideally you would bring your shake to the gym, leave it in the fridge (if you have access to one), and then consume it as you cool down and drive home.

Pre- and post-workout carbohydrate sources

Ideally your sources would be a mix of simple and complex carbohydrates:

Ex) oatmeal (complex) with fruit and honey (both simple)

Ex) burrito bowl with a mix of white (simple) and brown (complex) jasmine rice

Sweet potatoes and white potatoes are in the same boat as the rice example.

If you need a last minute pick-me-up, consuming simple carbs (fruit ideally) 15 min or sooner to a workout gives your blood stream a last minute source for a hard workout.

Have questions about YOUR particular nutritional situation? Want to learn more about eating to fuel your body? Email to set up a nutrition consultation.

Your C5 Nutrition Coach,