To Eat or Not to Eat: Before, During and/or After Exercise

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As we all should understand, it is not how hard you train but how well you eat that will yield the best results. We have seen those who work out seven days a week for a daunting three-hour workout only to look frail and weak and have no muscle tone and sagging skin.

Why? Not having proper eating habits. Then we see those who train three to four times a week for maybe an hour, and with a clean and well-balanced eating plan they look fantastic. So I really appreciate information regarding proper nutrition before, during and after the workout.

Having a high-carbohydrate, low-protein/low-fat meal before the workout will help you not feel bloated or weighed down for the workout, having low energy or low focus. The pre-workout meal is best made up of carbohydrates that rate a low on the G.I. scale, in most cases. Not all foods work the same with all people.

Including a carbohydrate in the meal ensures the client will have enough sustained energy to work through the workout. If the workout lasts longer than 60 minutes one should add a variety of low to high G.I. carbohydrate; again everybody reacts differently. Some may have a big drop in blood sugar and lose drive if a high G.I. carbohydrate is used. In most cases, if a high G.I. carbohydrate is taken 5 to 10 minutes before exercise, the insulin secretion will be halted with the start of exercise and you should be okay. Having a good carbohydrate-balanced meal pre-workout will ensure a level of energy to help you finish your workout and keep energy/fluid balance in check.

The pre-workout meal could be 15-60 minutes before the workout and would ensure adequate energy supplies to the client.

During the workout itself, energy is needed to keep training intensity levels up. With all moderate to hard workouts, fluid is lost, making it important to balance the carbohydrate and fluid amounts retained in the system. A safe calculation to ensure a proper balance would be .5 grams of carbohydrates per 1 lb of body weight during a workout that lasts longer than 60 minutes.

Since carbohydrates are vital for energy levels, we need to make sure we have some type of carbohydrate coming in. Sport drinks, fruits, sport bars, etc., along with water are good.

Post-workout meal, depending on the level of exercise intensity, should be to replenish fluids and restore glycogen. Eat within 15 minutes of finishing the workout, carbohydrate-rich foods, sport drinks and foods high in water, such as fruits. Non-diet sodas, even though they have basically zero nutrients or vitamins, are a carbohydrate source.

Eat about 300 calories rich in carbohydrates with a bit of protein every two hours for the next six to eight hours if you are training hard, multiple times per day.

Let’s not forget muscle. Protein is needed for muscular growth and cellular repair. Fifteen percent of daily calories from protein would be sufficient.

Good workouts come from focus, good mental energy and sustained energy levels. A good pre-, during and post-workout meal ensures that.

Ed White has worked in the fitness industry for over 22 years and is a certified personal trainer. He has complemented his love of personal training with 12 years’ experience in spine care in the field of physical therapy and three years as administrator for a medical clinic. Ed has a record of success in teaching people how to properly care for their body through exercise and proper nutrition.

is a certified personal trainer who has worked in the fitness industry for more than 22 years. He has 12 years’ experience in spine care in physical therapy and three years as a medical clinic administrator. He owns EveryDay Fitness on Athens Avenue in Redding, and can be reached at 530-246-1902 or at his website,
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11 Responses

  1. Avatar Chris Bennor says:

    I think a key phrase in this article is "..depending on the level of exercise intensity…" If your workout consists of a brisk 30-minute walk, your body doesn't need a recovery meal. Drink a glass of water and eat your next meal/snack on schedule.

    I actively participate in an online group, and I'll often see people frustrated because they're working out but not losing, sometimes even gaining weight. But they're overcompensating – thinking they did the elliptical for 40 minutes so they can order a Whopper value meal that night. Or yes, that 300-calorie protein bar afterwards. Not so much, kids.

  2. Avatar Steve Fischer says:

    What's a GI carb – high or low?

    • Avatar Ed White says:

      The Glycemic Rating Index (GI scale) is the rating scale for carbohydrates. What it tells you is: How fast does the carbohydrate break down into glucose and then enter the body. If the food breaks down and then very rapidly enters into the system then it will have a high rating on the GI scale whereas if the carbohydrate breaks down and then just slowly enters the system it will have a low rating on the GI scale. A good website to find the ratings of most carbohydrates is look for Glycemic Rating Index. In my opinion, using the GI scale and choosing low to medium GI foods, one will have great success in losing bodyfat. I do offer a free nutrition class at EveryDay Fitness on the last Saturday of the month at 11:30. If you are interested please R.S.V.P. call 246-1902.

  3. Avatar Chris Hanna says:

    Ed, your knowledge about diet and exercise, willingness to help, and the direction you've shown Jessica and I has made an incredible difference in our daily lives. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (yeah, we tossed our fat clothes)

  4. Avatar Sherry Fourzon says:

    Ed, I'm so happy so see your article on this website. Since working with u, about 18. Months now, the changes in my energy and overall health have been amazing. The diet plan you gave me made all the difference in how I felt throughout the day. More focus and energy levels that were high throughout the day and not the highs and lows I used to have. I also have to say, I sure enjoyed shopping for a bathing suit a lot more this summer thanks to you!

    • Avatar eric says:

      I have to agree. The menu has given back energy to me also. And, I like to see you wear that new swimsuit, and hope its a bikini.

  5. Avatar Joan Przybyla says:

    I LOVE listening to Ed speak on this subject, as well as read what he has to say about it! He is so enthusiastic , and the way he explains things makes so much sense! My boyfriend and I drove up to Redding from Tracy to attend one of his seminars a couple weekends ago, and the trip was well worth the 3+ hour drive, one way! It is so interesting to listen to him explain exactly how things work and why. After just 2 weeks on the eating program he drew up for us, I have lost 3 pounds, have lots of energy and feel so much better that I had been feeling. The most exciting thing that has come of this is the fact that my boyfriend has lost a total of 12 pounds, and his blood sugar and blood pressure are both back to normal. He has been on medication for this, and should be able to come off of it soon! It's a big relief after having been told that he may have to start insulin shots, and that he was at risk of a stroke. His doctor in Tracy was amazed at his progress. Ed has been so helpful to us! We can't wait until we can get back up there to visit! Thank you so much, Ed!

  6. Avatar Judy Smith says:

    Because of Ed's guidance with my eating plan and exercise program, my energy level is sustained throughout the day, I feel better physically and mentally, I sleep better at night, not to mention the weight loss, smaller clothes, and re-defined body. I can always count on him to keep me focused and on track with my eating and exercise. Ed's enthusiasm and love for helping people reach their goals is evident. He carefully guides his clients to a healthier lifestyle that is easily maintained. THANK YOU Ed White!!

  7. Avatar Danny Silk says:

    I am a BELIEVER! Ed's advice rescued me from a workout of low energy, nausea, and a strong desire to never return to the gym to feeling like a person who is transforming their whole physical experience of life. Having a skilled, experienced trainer is making all the difference in my attempt to live a healthier lifestyle. Thanks Ed for your many years of learning and growing for the benefit of so many around you!

  8. Avatar Sheri says:

    Thanks for the article, Ed, such great information!! After being on the dieting treadmill for years my body was very confused. Ed has taught me how to make this machine (body) work how it was intended. After a year of training with Ed not only has my body changed on the outside but my Dr. is very happy with the changes on the inside. Cholesterol numbers are all in order, no more high blood pressure either.

    Knowledge is power!! Keep up the great work you're doing, changing one life at a time!!

  9. Avatar Alexis Asbe says:

    It is rare to have superior resource, knowledge and great service in small town.
    Thank you for the great information!

    Kinda good looking too….;)