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Food is Fuel!

By Bree Marsh, for LT Swimwear

Food is fuel, and if utilized properly, it can be a powerful tool to help you reach your fitness goals. Whether you structure your workouts in the gym, in the pool, or on a bike, or you just get outside and play with your kiddos, don’t forget the importance of nutrition! When it comes to performance, the right amounts and the quality of foods matter, as well as the timing of nutrient intake. The most common nutrition mistake I see with women and their fitness is not eating enough, and especially not eating enough protein. 

It seems to go hand in hand, when women start exercising on a regular basis, their food intake usually goes down… aka they go on a “diet.” Yes, there are certain circumstances where calories need to be decreased and/or specific foods should be avoided, but this is the exception, not the rule. I typically encourage women to focus on what they can add to their diet as opposed to what they can eliminate. Eating around workouts is so beneficial, however, many do not know when and what to eat. Both of these depend a little on when you workout, morning, midday, or evening. If you like to workout in the morning, the first thing to consider is the type of workout you’re about to perform. If it is lower intensity, like a walk or a slower run, it may be ok to forgo food until after. However, if it is a weight workout or high intensity cardio, I would definitely suggest getting in some calories at least an hour beforehand. 

Now, what should you eat?

For pre-workout, there are many options to choose from! I suggest 15-20 grams of protein with either a carbohydrate or a fat (or both), depending on how much food your gut can handle. 

Here are some great options to consider!

  1. Smoothie with banana, peanut or almond butter, and whey protein powder
  2. Greek yogurt (3/4c is 16g protein) with berries and chopped nuts or chia seeds
  3. 2 eggs (approx 12g protein) with avocado toast, cottage cheese (1/2c is about 13g protein) and an apple
  4. Oatmeal with collagen powder
  5. RX bar
  6. Veggie and egg scramble with cheese
  7. Turkey sausage and an English muffin with Laughing Cow cheese
avocado toast with egg and tomatoes

Post workout should look a little different. I recommend high protein with a fast-absorbing carbohydrate and minimal fat. 

Some great post workout options:

  1. Whey protein shake and a bagel with jelly
  2. Egg whites and a banana, low-fat cereal with skim milk
  3. Low-fat chocolate milk and pretzels
  4. Fat-free Greek yogurt and pineapple

A good ratio is 2:1 carbohydrates to protein, so around 40-50 grams carbs and 20-25 grams protein, with minimal fat. Try to eat within 30 minutes of your workout. 

If you are an afternoon or evening exerciser, you may not need the pre-workout food, but if you are doing something fairly high intensity, I still recommend getting in what you can. Post-workout, I would suggest a protein shake right away, maybe with a piece of fruit, and then a full meal with all three macronutrients within 2 hours of that.  If you’re not super concerned with performance and/or body composition, you can be a little lenient with these recommendations; however, if your goal is to increase your performance, adding some muscle and decreasing body fat, I highly suggest following these guidelines as best you can! Once you get into a routine, it is easy to keep your protein intake high and really feel the results! 


Bree is a personal trainer at APF and registered and licensed dietitian, specializing in female strength training.  She's a former professional figure competitor and loves the sport of bodybuilding.  She's a wife and mom, enjoys hiking, yoga and the occasional 5k.  Connect with her on Instagram @breemarsh_fitness and @athenspersonalfitness594

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