Nutrition for Exercise

Nutrition for Exercise

"Do I need a pre-workout supplement?"
"Do I need to eat before I work out?" 
"Am I supposed to eat right after I work out? What if I can't?!"
"What am I supposed to eat after a workout?"
"How much water should I be drinking?"
"Is a sports drink necessary?"

There are many questions surrounding how you should eat for exercise, and these are just a few of them! Before I answer these common questions, please keep in mind that every body is different and you need to find what works best for you. 

  • "Do I need a pre-workout supplement?" - Not necessarily. Pre-workout supplements are a blend of ingredients, and usually contain caffeine, which is turn gives you a better feeling while you workout. They can increase blood flow and sweat production, but don't necessarily change your workout.
  • "Do I need to eat before I workout?"  - Yes and no. If you have early gym sessions, and are not a morning eater, exercising in a fasting state (no food for 8+ hours) is OK! You will just need to focus more on your post-workout nutrition. If you exercise in the afternoon or evening, and have an intense workout lined up, then eating a small, healthy snack containing carbs and protein will help your workout - depending on when your previous meal was. If your exercise is a leisurely walk, or bike ride, then eating beforehand is not necessary - unless you're hungry of course!
  • "Am I supposed to eat right after I workout? What if I can't?!" - Any time you work out, eating within 2-3 hours afterward is important, to refuel your body and strengthen your muscle tissue. If you have an intense workout, then eating closer to 2 hours after is important. If you have a leisurely workout, like light cardio, then close to that 3 hour mark should be OK. If you can't have a balanced meal of carbs, lean protein and healthy fats right away, then a small snack or a healthy bar can begin its work, while you do prepare something to eat.
  • "What am I supposed to eat after a workout?" Not a double cheeseburger and milkshake :) Often, we think that exercise gives us the right to eat whatever we want, however, when it comes to weight loss and weight management, nutrition is 70% of the equation! Your body just depleted its glucose stores, and your muscles are starving for fuel. This is a great opportunity to focus on clean nutrition - lean protein (poultry, fish, lean beef, vegetarian sources) complex carbs (vegetables, whole grains) and healthy fats (fish, avocados, nuts, seeds). You also still need to be mindful of portion control and drinking plenty of water.
  • "How much water should I be drinking?" Water is a very important part of the day, all day. You should aim for those 6-8 glasses of water a day, but when you exercise, be sure to add in at least 2 more glasses of water. If you are exercising in a hot or humid location and sweating, then you may need more. Listen to your body!
  • "Is a sports drink necessary?" Again, not necessarily. Sports drinks are a mixture of sugar and electrolytes that are important to restore when you are exercising for a long duration, in a hot and humid climate, or sweating intensely. Water usually suffices in other circumstances, and if you are not exercising, then do not drink sports drinks as a part of your regular diet.

These are general guidelines, and your situation may be different! Please leave your questions below, or schedule a consultation with HAWA's Nutritionist and Fitness Specialist to create a plan that works for you!