Monday, March 6, 2017

Feed the Beast: Eating for Exercise

Well-balanced nutrition can give you a competitive advantage when it comes to working out and sports. Eating well will give you the proper fuel to help you power through your workout and help you feel your best. It is important to remember that nutrition is not one size fits all and that recommendations will vary based on activity level, sport played, length of activity, weight, and age. Well-planned diets for the recreational athlete and the elite athlete consist of a balance of carbohydrates and protein. Although with sports nutrition the focus is on carbohydrates and protein, it is important not to forget fat. People often fear fat because they think fat will make them fat. Keep reading to learn why we need carbohydrates, protein and fat.


  • Carbohydrates are an important source of fuel and energy for our bodies.
  • When we eat carbohydrates, our bodies store the glucose we are not currently using. As our blood sugar levels fall, the glycogen releases more glucose into our blood to keep our energy levels up.
  • Not getting enough carbohydrates (or calories) while training can cause muscle glycogen levels to decrease and as a result performance will suffer.
  • Sources of carbohydrates to try include whole grain bread, brown rice, faro, quinoa, bananas, raisins, peaches, apples, sweet potatoes, squash, corn, potatoes, oatmeal, cereal, chocolate milk, sports drinks, beans, pasta, and crackers.


  • Protein is necessary to support muscle growth and recovery. Muscle is constantly being broken down during exercise, and adequate protein is important for repair.  
  • Choose lean proteins. Ideas include lean chicken, fish, roasted turkey, lean beef, eggs, low fat dairy, nuts, seeds, nut butters, beans, lentils, tofu, and Greek yogurt.

  • Fat serves many functions in our bodies, which is why it is an important nutrient to include in our diets.
  • Fat is necessary to:
- Absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, K)
- Lubricate our joints and build healthy cells
- Give us energy and keep us feeling satisfied
  • Not all fats are the same. Avoid trans fats found in packaged foods and baked goods, and limit saturated fat found in fatty red meats, fried foods and full fat dairy.
  • Choose healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) including nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocados, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and salmon.

My favorite pre exercise fuel is whole grain Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins with almond butter and a sliced banana. What is your favorite way to fuel for exercise?

 Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN has a private practice LNZ Nutrition, LLC ( in New York where she counsels on sports nutrition, food allergies and weight management. She enjoys helping others navigate the science to understand the contradicting information about nutrition through her counseling and writing.

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