Freshly Washed Tomatoes, Cucumber and Lettuce

A lot of athletes are regularly struggling with the question about what they should eat to get the best results from their workouts.

This article will be discussing the usefulness of matching your nutrition with your workout plan, as well as certain foods that I recommend.

 

Focus On the Basics

Beginners, intermediates and professionals all have in common that it’s important to keep basic nutritional standards up to par.

  • Water, about 2L a day
  • About half a pound of vegetables
  • At least two pieces of fruit
  • A handful of nuts
  • Whole bread, about 3-8 slices
  • Whole grain foods, such as rice
  • Dairy products, about 2-3 portions (milk for example)
  • A portion of meat, fish or meat substitutes*

* Meat substitutes often contain a lot of salt, so you will have to take this in account. The maximum daily intake of salt is determined to be six grams a day.

This basic food plan provides the body with enough macro- and micro nutrients. Of course, if you are very serious about fitness, this isn’t enough. Most intermediates and professionals require a larger food intake to prevent a caloric deficit.

 

When Should You Tweak Your Food Plan?

If you preform a light cardio or strength workout once a week, or if you go for a walk 2-3 times a week, the basics will probably cover you. The only thing I’d recommend is to eat a bit more on the day of your workout.

However, if you are a bit more dedicated and therefore work out 2 times or more per week, you might need something extra. You want you reach certain goals, right?

 

More Training Requires More Food

If you work out a lot, your body requires more calories. Having a caloric deficit will inhibit your ability to recover, which in turn leaves you with a decrease in performance.

So, how much should you eat?

Well, let’s back up a bit. I’ve often mentioned the base metabolic rate (BMR). This is the amount of calories you burn on a regular (resting) day.

How to Calculate Your BMR

First of all, you need to calculate how much energy your body needs in order to maintain all the basic processes. Thus, this is the amount of energy you are using if you’re in bed all day. Since men and women are different, I’m going to provide you with two formulas.

Men: BMR = 88.362 + (13.397* mass in kg) + (4.799 * length in cm) – (5.677 * age in years)

Women: BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 * mass in kg) + (3.098 * length in cm) – (4.330 * age in years)

* 1 kg = 2.222 lbs

I’m not planning on boring you to sleep by explaining why these formulas are the way they are, so just bear with me. Try to fill in the formula with your own data. The result will be your BMR in calories per day.

Physical Activity Level

Now that you’ve calculated your BMR, you need to estimate your physical activity level (PAL). The reason for this, is that just adding some calories on top of your BMR is not exactly how it works.

 

 

If you multiply your BMR with your PAL, you get a new amount of calories per day. This is what you should ingest in order to get the best results from your workouts.

For example: is your BMR is 1750 calories a day and your PAL equals 1.6, your body uses 2,800 calories a day.

Metabolic Equivalent of Task

Another method you can use to estimate the energy that your body uses, is through the use of the metabolic equivalent of task, or MET for short.

MET is used to check how much energy each activity costs. Therefore, it is more accurate than the use of your PAL. It does however require you to do some extra work.

 

 

The formula that is used to calculate the amount of energy that an activity costs is as follows:

((MET * weight in kg) / 200) * 60 minutes.

Every activity must be calculated separately. Adding them all together gives you the amount of calories that your body uses.

 

The Importance of Proteins

If you are working out at least 2 times a week on a relatively high level, your muscles are going to need extra proteins, as they are vital to muscle recovery. If you don’t eat enough protein, your recovery will be slower and your performance might decrease.

These are the general guidelines when it comes to protein intake:

  • Endurance
    1.4-1.6 grams per kg body weight or 0.63-0.72 grams per lbs body weight.
  • Strength + Endurance
    1.6-1.8 grams per kg body weight or 0.72-0.81 grams per lbs body weight.
  • Strength
    1.8-2.0 grams per kg body weight or 0,81-0,90 grams per kg body weight.

 

This table shows you some foods and their protein contents, which is measured in grams of protein per 100 grams of food.

 

Guidelines regarding protein rich foods before working out

Preferably, you’d consume a protein rich meal before training. Mind you, not right before you’re stepping in the gym or there will be problems during your workout. Aside from that, having 2 to 3 protein rich meals ensures a steady supply of proteins.

Every meal should contain between 20 and 40 grams of high quality proteins. High quality proteins contain every essential amino acid.

Having a meal that is rich in proteins right before you head to bed might also be a good idea. It ensures that your muscles have enough proteins to recover during your sleep. I used to be lazy, so instead of making myself a meal, I took a protein shake right before sleeping.

Right, so what should you eat before a workout?

I’ve summed up a few meals that I personally take about 30-60 minutes before a workout.

  • Chicken breast (100-150g) with pasta (100-150g) and broccoli (250g) contains about 40-45 grams of protein.
  • A bowl of low-fat cottage cheese (250g) with muesli (about 50g) contains roughly 30 grams of protein.
  • Two slices of whole bread, one with a slice of cheese (about 20g) and one with apple syrup contains about 25g of protein.

You don’t have to be extremely strict about measurements and all that, but these are just a few examples.

Guidelines for protein rich foods during a workout

A long and intensive workout (> 2 hours) might require you to take some extra proteins (about 0.2g per kg body weight or 0.1 g per lbs of body weight) to prevent muscle tissues from being broken down.

Note that this is only necessary if you’re planning to deliver a comparable amount of energy during a workout on the next day.

So what should you eat after your workout?

Well, for example some cottage cheese with muesli, some fruits and a handful of nuts will suffice. You could also go for chicken, cheese, veggies and pasta. Be creative!

Click here to learn more about proteins.

 

The Importance of Carbohydrates

The amount of carbs you should eat depends on the duration and intensity of your workout.

  • Athletes that perform strength training, dancing, or running exercises, whose workouts take between 1 and 2 hours (> 3 times a week) are required to consume about 4 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram body weight (1.8g per lbs body weight).
  • Cyclists, long distance runners and swimmers, whose workouts take between 1 and 2 hours (2-3 times per week), require about 6 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram body weight (2.7g per lbs body weight).
  • Athletes that work out more than 8 hours a week, require about 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram body weight (4.5g per lbs body weight).
Guidelines regarding high carb foods before working out

It’s important that your body holds enough glycogen. Therefore, I’d recommend to consume enough carbs before a workout.

  • Consume between 1 and 4 grams carbohydrates per kg body weight (0.45-1.8 g/lbs) about 1.5 to 5 hours before a workout.
  • If you’re planning on doing a very intense workout with a duration greater than 2.5 hours, I’d recommend increasing the amount of carbs to 3-4 grams per kg body weight (1.35-1.8 g/lbs). Mind you that cardio requires more carbs than strength training.
  • Don’t pig out before a workout!
What to eat before a workout

These are few meals that I often consume about 1.5 to 5 hours before my workouts.

  • About 6 slices of brown bread with apple syrup, chocolate sprinkles, peanut butter and jelly.
  • Some pasta (100g) with chicken breast (100g), some vegetables (250g) and some sauce if I feel like it.

As you can see, there’s nothing special about these meals, but they do contain a lot of carbohydrates.

Guidelines for high carb foods during a workout

Consuming carbohydrates during your workout is not necessary per se. The body holds between 300 and 600 grams of glycogen that can be used as fuel. This equals around 1,200 to 2,000 calories.

A normal strength workout does not require extra carbohydrates. Why? Well, you’re resting between sets, right? If you add it all up, you’re not really moving all that much, compared to an hour of running for example. Just drinking some water will suffice.

Speaking of which, running for 1.5 hours doesn’t require an extra intake of carbohydrates. If you’re planning to have an intense cardio workout that lasts longer though, you might want to eat something during the workout.

If your workout takes between 1.5 and 2.5 hours, I’d recommend consuming about 30-60 grams of carbohydrates. Examples include a banana and a workout beverage of your choice.

A workout that lasts for over 2.5 hours can be quite heavy. I’d say that consuming about 90 grams of carbohydrates will get you covered.

Carbohydrate intake after your workout

You will want to restock your glycogen levels as fast as possible after a workout to prevent muscle proteins being broken down. Consuming about 0.6 to 1.0 grams of carbs per kg body weight (0.27-0.45 g/lbs) within the first 30 minutes of your workout is recommended.

If your workout was really tough, I’d recommend consuming this amount every 2 hours after your workout up to 6 hours after the workout (so 3 meals).

Foods that provide the body with enough (complex) carbohydrates include but are not limited to brown rice, oatmeal, chicken breast, ground meat, brown bread, bananas, apples and so on.

Click here to learn more about Carbohydrates.

 

And Then There’s Fats

Yes, fats too have their rightful place in every athlete’s diet! Why? Well, most vitamins you ingest are fat-soluble. Without vitamins, everything you eat would be obsolete.

About 20-35% of your daily intake should consist of fats.

I will admit that I won’t recommend eating a lot of fat before or during your workout. Nonetheless, it’s worth mentioning that they exist and are useful.

Click here to learn more about fats.

 

Drink, Drink, Drink!

We’ve talked a lot about food, but drinking is just as important. Water is needed to make sure that waste is excreted, and it cools your body. Not drinking will 100% affect your performance.

A great way to check it you drank enough during your workout, is through the use of scales. If you’ve lost more than 2% body weight after your workout, you did not drink enough.

It might be easier to just check your urine, though. Its color should be a light yellow or even transparent. If it’s darker, drink!

About 2-4 hours before your workout, I’d recommend drinking at least half a liter of water. Tea is also an option. Coffee on the other hand, is one of those drinks that I would not drink a lot of before working out, as it might cause nausea during the workout.

Does your workout last about 1.5 hours? In that case, drinking some water will suffice. Pay attention to how much you’re sweating though!

If it’s hot or if you’re doing a high intensity cardio workout, you can lose up to a gallon of water per hour!

Workouts that take longer than 1.5 hours may require you to add some electrolytes to your drink. As you sweat, you’re actively losing electrolytes. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to find out what happens if you run out.

After your workout, keep drinking. For this it might be useful to know how much water you’ve lost, so go get that scale. Drink about 1.5 times the amount of water you’ve lost.

 

Supplements: Do or Don’t?

If you have mastered the basics around your workout and nutrition, it’s time to talk about supplements. Right of the bat, remember the word ‘supplements’. By no means do supplements replace a healthy and balanced meal plan.

The most commonly known supplement of course, is the protein shake. If you could use some extra protein, go ahead and have some! If you’re good, you’re good.

Creatine is a supplement that might increase your performance. It’s no miracle drink, but it could definitely make a difference.

Then there are vitamins. Not everyone has the luxury of consuming enough vitamins every day thanks to work or other things that might be going on. If that’s the case, a multivitamin might be for you.

When in doubt, make sure you contact a dietitian.

Click here to learn more about our recommended supplements.

 

In Conclusion

All of this might seem like a lot of information. You might be wondering how you could ever follow all of these ‘rules’. Well, fear not. You definitely don’t have to be a nutritional miracle worker in order to make progress.

These are general guidelines that, in general, provide optimal results. I hope you took notes. Go ahead and play with what you’ve learned.

Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

42 thoughts on “Fine-tuning Your Nutrition For Workouts

  1. Thanks for yet another sensational article, food is a very important part of workout life, it can add up result and it can as well slow the process. I agree with you that it’s always good to consume a bit more on the day of training as the saying goes that more work requires more food. This is a sure positive guide, thanks for sharing it.

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for the kind words! Nutrition definitely just as important as exercise in general. 

      Have a great day! 

  2. Hey thank you for the awesome post, as always!  I really like this post because it helps breakdown my needs as far as eating goes, because I train for strength and endurance, and I train pretty hard.  So this is great for someone like me.  I know a lot about workouts, but hardly anything on the diet side.  Thanks for the clarifications because I have been taking in to much protein!

    1. Hi Jessie, 

      Thanks for dropping by again and I’m glad you learned something! Nutrition can be quite tricky as there are a lot of ‘rules’ that either get neglected or taken way too seriously. Keep up the great work in the gym! 

      Have a great day! 

  3. This is really a perfect article.  This is one question that has troubled me for quite some time now, I’m 20 and want to get a little taller than I am and get rid of this being skinny. Do vegetables really matter that much so much that I should eat them every day because I really hate Vegetables. I’ll have to wait and start this from scratch to avoid eating up all the family’s  food for my work outs.  You know I always wondered why I don’t recover quickly after work outs and thanks to you I now know I need some proteins.

    1. Hi Donny, 

      Vegatables are definitely recommended, as they contain tons of good nutrients, both macro and micro. Remember though, that you can make them taste better if you so choose, by adding spices or something like a sauce.

      Proteins are indeed an absolute necessity when it comes to muscle recovery, as they are the building blocks of the body. I’m glad you learned something! 

      Cheers!

  4. This is a whole lot of information, you’ve done a great job putting this together and I’ve enjoyed reading through every bit of this educative article. Keeping a balance nutrition is one thing that affects exercises, as much as care should be taken when working out, what is eaten before workout or even after should be carefully selected. Like we have it here, protein is very good food to eat, likewise other classes. Its good to have this helpful details.

    1. Hi there, 

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you had a good read! There are definitely some rules when it comes to nutrition before, during and after workouts, but think of them more as guidelines. How you utilize them or fill them in is up to you! 

      Cheers! 

  5. This is the first time I’m reading a lot of information about what to eat as workout person or rather someone who exercises. What i noticed about most people is that they always starve just because of the fact that they are on a particular diet and they are not allowed to eat some things, nutrition can allow you eat more and still be fit, this depends on what you eat and you’ve given a good insight as per how to go about it. This will help a lot of people.

    1. Hi Roseline, 

      It is true that a lot of people just pick a diet because they have a certain goal. However, I think it’s best if people know a little bit about nutrition themselves, as it opens up a debate. Eating and being fit at the same time is definitely not exceptional. If you are actively exercising, you need food. Foods have rules though, and it’s up to everyone to do whatever they like within the set rules.

      Have a great day! 

  6. this post has taught me a lot. thank you for the post, i never knew anything about calculating BMR. at least now i have been able to understand the importance of protein as they are vital to muscle recovery. If you don’t eat enough protein,
    your recovery will be slower and your performance might decrease. i applaud you

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      I’m glad you’ve learned something and I hope this newfound knowledge will help you reach your goals.

      Cheers!

  7. Great info- I am a ketoer to the tee and these concepts still fit into my strict diet regimen. I find that 1/2 of your weight in ounces of water is more effective than a 2l a day serving though, only because we all require different macros and over watering can be an issue for a small framed female. What macros calculator would you recommend for those that are ready to advance their performance and increase muscle mass?

    1. Hi Rachel, 

      Your way of making sure you’re hydrated sounds quite effective indeed! The 2L per day is mainly a guideline. As we both know, everyone’s body is and acts different, and therefore need different amounts of nutrients and liquid. 

      Regarding calculating macros… I actually calculate them myself! Carbs and proteins contain 4 calories per gram and fats about 9. Assuming I should take X percent of each macro, it allows me to carefully calculate exactly how much I should consume. Then it’s just a matter of reading the labels of my foods and it will sort itself out. 

      I can imagine though, that you would want to do this faster and easier. I’ve used the MyFitnessPal app in the past and it worked quite well for me. You insert your weight, height and goal, as well as the rate in which you’d like to reach said goal. It will then give you an amount of calories you need to eat every day, as well as an amount of macros.

      MyFitnessPal is great, but not as accurate as calculating it yourself. Most apps rely on a certain average, so it might work for a large group of people, but not to all. 

      I hope this answers your question! 

  8. Hello Kevin, this is another wonderful post that you have written about how one can get the best of their workouts. I think that food Isa very essential part of working out and this is why it is very important  that anyone who wants to do this should follow strictly some eating routines that you have written. I will share this with my brother. He is the freak about body building. I think he does more of cardio. Nice work.

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for the kind words. The more you want to make of your workouts, the more you need to live by the rules. Be sure to let your brother have a look on the site. There’s a lot of information that he might find useful.

      Have a great day!

  9. This is a sure positive guide and a welcomed addition for me. Food is as important as eanything else when it comes to working out. No one works out on empty stomach, it is just not done. This is a lot more better to see here and I will also take note of most of the things you have shared here that could serve as limitations to my progress with my working it. Thanks

    1. Hi Rodarrick,

      Great to see that you liked my article! I’ve tried to make everything as easy as possible for my readers. Just remember: there are rules when it comes to nutrition, but whether you want to follow them as strictly as possible, depends on your goals and the will to reach them. Good luck! 

      Have a great day! 

  10. Thanks for this post on how to take our strength to the next level about what we should eat for optimal results, I take a lot of proteins and carbohydrates and I work out a lot, sometimes when I take any carbohydrates food before I go to work out I do have stomach plans during work out , so I wanna ask is the carbohydrate I take affecting the glucose that’s already in my body? Thanks 

    1. Hi Rose, 

      Yes, eating carbs will influence your glucose levels, but this is only the case for simple carbohydrates, i.e. sugars. The body will start using the newfound glucose as its primary fuel during your workout, as glucose molecules are broken down easier than glycogen. 

      Complex carbs are for a pig portion nutrients called fibers.  These don’t actually raise your blood sugar, as our bodies cannot digest them. Therefore, they make up a large big part of our stool. Complex carbs can be found in vegetables and grains.

      So to answer your question, experiencing stomach pains during your workout might have something to do with eating too much eating too much fiber and not drinking enough water. 

      It might not be a bad idea to write down whatever it is you often eat before a workout. From there you might be able to solve what kind of product gives you these aches. 

      I hope this answers your question!

  11. For a person like me who knows a little about what working out entails, I can tell anyone that it is very important to remember that carbs are essential for body building and this van really give the optimal result you stated here. M at people do not understand this and that is why they think their workouts don’t yield. Like you said, more workouts mean more food. Nice one

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for dropping by! You got it: exercise is important, but in order to increase your performance and to recover, good nutrition is an absolute must. 

      Cheers! 

  12. Eating is also a very essential condiment to ensure that we live normally and achieve the height of excellence in keeping fit. I really exult this. The various explanation and analysis you have explained concerning the various food classes are great and surely, a thumbs up from my side. I will try to incorporate them to my living

    1. Hi Benny, 

      Thanks for leaving your thoughts! Nutrition has a lot of rules, and even though they don’t have to be incoporated to the tee, it can’t hurt to use them a bit. Good luck!

      Have a great day! 

  13. Thanks for sharing this post on what we should ear for optimal results on strength, I have a little kid that likes going to the gym to  work out initially I do give him some carbohydrate before he goes so as to give him more strength , but whenever he comes back he complains about his stomach , then I read an article about being eating carbohydrates after working out, since then I give him food after working out to replenish his energy level, and it has been working well for him , thanks 

    1. Hi Gracie,

      Stomach ache in the gym can be a real workout killer. I’ve done a little bit of research, and I found that eating too much fiber before a workout can lead to stomach ache, if not enough water is ingested. Simple carbohydrates (sugars, fruit etc.) replenish the blood sugar levels. Eating something like a banana before a workout should not give any problems. Complex carbs (or fibers) are found in vegetables and grain products. 

      So my advice would be to keep giving some food post-workout, but eating just before a workout can be fine too, as long as it’s a very light meal with simple carbohydrates. Oh, and don’t forget about water! 

      Have a great day!

  14. Really great post. Very complete and precise and full of helpful informations!! I love the fact that we can eat more on days we work out!! 😉 We constantly hear (especially women) that we shouldn’t eat this or that etc… That is another great benefit of working out: we can eat!! (but it has to be a healthy balanced diet of course.)  I train at least 2-3 times a week, so I really enjoyed reading your article. I have learned quite a bit about what BMR, PAL and MET are. Thank you!

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for the kind words and I’m glad to see you’ve learned something! Nutrition can indeed be a tricky beast. A lot of foods should definitely be avoided, but that does not mean we cannot enjoy ourselves. Just keep everything in balance, that’s basically it when it comes to avoiding certain foods. There is so much healthy food that we can make as yummy as we like! 

      Cheers! 

  15. I agree it can be a challenge for athletes sometimes to choose the right diet. So true that water is important and surprisingly people can tend to forget the level of importance. I appreciate you mentioning exact serving intakes as I like to stay on par with the latest recommendations. As technology advances our understanding of biology follows suit and the latest information is always valuable. It’s good to know that that you should eat more on workout days. I really like the MET test and to be honest hadn’t heard a lot about it until now, so I find this information very useful. Thanks for a great recommendation and keep up the good work! 

    1. Hi there, 

      Great to read that you learned your fair share from this article! Nutrition is a vital part of your physical health, and it goes hand in hand with any form of physical activity. I hope you can implement some of this in your everyday life! 

      Have a great day! 

  16. I totally agree with the submission that more training surely requires more food. There was a time I had collapsed during a work out session because I did not eat well enough and I lost strength along the course of the training. So, what you have shared is simply the truth.Food is very important to attaining excellence in the work out. This is really great to see here and surely well worthy. 

    1. Hi Julianne, 

      Thanks for dropping by. You are right, the balance between exercise and nutrition indeed is very important. Not playing by those rules can set you back quite a bit! 

      Have a great day!

  17. I like to make a protein shake every morning that is loaded with super fruits, veggies, and chai and flax seeds.  I only eat

    store baked bread.  I drink lots of chocolate milk, green tea, water with lemon.   I am always trying to add new healthy foods to my diet.  Which superfoods do you like the best?

    1. Hi Jake, 

      I’m not into superfoods all that much. I personally believe that the term ‘superfoods’ is a bit of a marketing fad. 

      However! I do add a lot of healthy foods to my diet. 

      I consume a lot of almonds and walnuts! I think those two are my favorites. Other than that, I eat 2 lbs of low fat cottage cheese every day, as well as fruits (bananas/apples and so on), 1-2 cups of coffee and tea, a lot of chicken/turkey breast, brown rice, broccoli and spinach. Well, not every day, but most of the days. 

      Cheers! 

  18. Hello Kevin, Thanks for writing on the usefulness of matching your nutrition with your workout plan. Your all the article is full of energy. I am getting energy while reading. I will follow some suggestion I like here. You have done grate research on each. Your each guideline is useful for our health. 

    I will follow first – Carbohydrate intake after your workout 

    Thank you .. Parveen

    1. Hi Parveen,

      Thank you for the kind words. I really like talking about fitness, health, nutrition and so on. I’m glad that this resonates through my articles!

      Have a great day!  

  19. Lots of great information on this article, love it!

    I’m working to avoid to stay on the low activity side, as I get older I see the great benefits of staying active and learn to eat better.

    Your article is loaded of great information and it’s so easy to read, I will print it out because I think it will help me to know my diet needs as I learn more about my daily activity, I don’t want to make big changes from one day to the next one, but I want to make healthy changes to be more active and learning to eat better. 

    1. Hi Alejandra,

      Thank you for dropping by! Making big changes can be very effective, but I am a fan of making small changes, so you can get a taste of what success is. That in turn will create a positive feedback loop, which will allow for more changes if necessary. 

      Good luck, and have a great day! 

  20. Hi, Kevin.
    Thanks for sharing the information on food for getting maximum results from our workouts. Wow, it was really a complete article with loads of information in one basket. Initially, I had few doubts but as I progressed and completed reading the article, all my questions were answered automatically. Thanks for your efforts, I am bookmarking this page for my future reference.
    Warm Regards,
    Gaurav Gaur

    1. Hi Gaurav, 

      Thank you for leaving your thoughts! I’m glad you came out positive after reading this article. I hope to see you again! 

      Have a great day.

  21. Thanks alot for this awesome article it would be of great help to the public as it has been of help to me.i must say that this is the best food to eat for optimal results,I must say I would try it out as it’s what I have been looking for for some time now.

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