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A Fitness Nutrition Guide: 7 Foods Athletes Should Eat (and 6 They Should Avoid)

Looking for the right fitness nutrition guide for runners can be tricky. We all know what you eat is important, but what about when you eat, particularly if you’re an active runner?

fitness nutrition guide
Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

Fitness nutrition has become a hot topic in the fitness world, and for good reason. The food we put in our bodies can either help or hinder us when it comes to performance. There are many different factors that go into what makes up an athlete’s diet, but there is one thing that most athletes have in common: they need to eat more than the average person! This blog post will dive deeper into a few key topics related to fitness nutrition for runners, including how to fuel before a workout, what foods you should be eating during your workout and after it’s over, as well as some things you might want to avoid if running is going to be your new hobby.

The Best Fitness Nutrition Guide

Fitness Nutrition Guide: Pre-Workout Nutrition

There are a few key things to focus on when it comes to pre-workout nutrition. The most important is making sure you’re well hydrated, so drink plenty of water in the hours leading up to your run. Being hydrated is such a key component that many athletes tend to neglect!

You’ll also want to make sure you have something in your stomach. While eating before a workout is heavily debated, having some fuel in your system is never a bad thing. Try to eat something light and easy-to-digest about an hour before your run. Something like a banana or some toast is a classic and is absolutely perfect for most runners.

There are a few foods you’ll want to make sure you have in your fridge before a workout. These include bananas, avocados, nuts or nut butters, yogurt and low-fat chocolate milk.

All of these will give you the energy boost that lasts through even the toughest fitness routines. The sugars found in fruit can help reduce muscle pain during workouts as well as keeping your blood sugar stable throughout the day. Bananas also contain potassium which helps keep muscles strong and healthy. Avocado is high in good monounsaturated fat — this type of fat has been shown to improve athletic performance by enhancing cognitive function for athletes due its ability to increase blood flow throughout the body (in other words it reduces fatigue).

These are just a few examples of pre-workout snacks. Experiment and find what works best for you. Just make sure you avoid high-fat and high-carbohydrate meals, which can cause stomach upset during exercise. These are easy to digest foods that will give you the nutrients you need when running or exercising.

The main takeaway here is that if you’re running for more than 30 minutes, you’ll want to have a small snack that’s high in carbohydrates to keep your energy levels up.

What Not To Eat

Now that we’ve covered the dos, let’s take a look at the don’ts. There are a few things you’ll want to avoid eating before your workout. Heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol should all be avoided in the hours leading up to your run. All of these can cause stomach upset or nausea, which is the last thing you need when trying to get through a tough workout. The most important thing you can do is listen to your body. If you start to feel sick or uncomfortable, stop what you’re doing and take a break.

Avoid these foods before hitting the gym or heading outside for a run. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

  • red meat
  • coffee (sugary lattes, cappuccinos)
  • soda or energy drinks
  • fried foods
  • processed foods (chips, candies, certain protein or chocolate bars)

These foods are loaded with unhealthy fats and sodium, which can cause bloating. They won’t help you power through your workout, but they will make you feel uncomfortable and hinder your progress.

Eating Right For Your Activity

Now that you know what to eat before your workout, it’s important to think about the types of foods that are best suited for your sport. Athletes who participate in endurance sports like running or cycling need plenty of carbohydrates to keep them going. They should also make sure they’re getting enough protein and healthy fats so their muscles can recover after a long workout.

Athletes who participate in strength-training activities like weightlifting should focus on eating plenty of protein and healthy fats. Carbs aren’t as important for this group, but they still need some to help them power through a tough workout.

Fitness Nutrition Guide: Post-Workout Nutrition

The most important thing you can do after your workout is fuel yourself properly for optimal recovery.

There is no time that your body needs nutrients more than after a workout.

After intense physical activity, muscles are depleted of glycogen and need carbs to replenish their energy sources as soon as possible.

Also make sure you’re getting enough protein post-workout — this will help your muscles repair themselves properly so they’ll be ready for the next fitness challenge!

Even if you don’t think of yourself as an athlete, everyone can benefit from fueling up with healthy foods after a long day at work or during those morning hours when we juggle kids’ schedules around our own before heading out the door on foot or by carpooling to school or daycare. Be smart about what you eat: stick with quality ingredients and avoid overly processed foods.

The following foods are great sources of energy and nutrients to help refuel after a workout.

  • Bananas. This yellow fruit is loaded with potassium, vitamin C, and dietary fiber — all important for restoring energy levels post-workout. Bananas also contain a type of sugar called fructose which the body can easily convert into glucose for quick energy. Also Add them to your morning oatmeal or yogurt as an easy way to start your day off right.
  • Oats. Oats are high in complex carbohydrates, which the body breaks down slowly to provide sustained energy over time. They’re also rich in fiber, protein, and vitamins B and E, making them an ideal breakfast food for athletes or anyone looking to recharge after a fitness.
  • Whole Grains. When it comes to carbohydrates, reach for complex ones, like whole wheat pasta and whole wheat bread, after the first 30 minutes following your workout.

What Not To Eat

You’ll want to especially avoid these foods after your workout…

  • Doughnuts, croissants, bear claws, and other pastries. These are high in processed sugar, which can cause a spike in insulin levels, leading to fat storage instead of muscle growth for fitness enthusiasts.
  • Soda/Artificial Fruit Juice Drinks. This includes energy drinks with caffeine or sweetened teas that have no nutritional value but add excess calories without any nutrients your body needs after working out so hard! In addition, a soda contains phosphates that prevent calcium absorption during exercise and reduce bone density over time.
  • Fried Foods. Not only are they unhealthy, but they can also make you feel bloated and uncomfortable after a fitness session.
  • Dairy Products. Yogurt is great for athletes because it contains live active cultures that help with digestion, but other dairy products like cheese and milk are high in fat and cholesterol and can slow down your body’s ability to recover from exercise.

Instead, try eating some of these foods directly after a workout…

  • Fresh Fruit. This is a great snack because fruit contains fructose, which can help with post-workout recovery and boost your immune system.
  • Whole Grain Breads or Cereals. These are high in carbohydrates that will refuel muscles after exercise and contain essential nutrients like B vitamins for energy production, magnesium to reduce muscle cramping, iron to increase red blood cells (which carry oxygen), zinc for faster wound healing and protein to build lean muscle mass.
  • Lean Protein sources such as chicken or turkey breast. Eating these foods within an hour of fitness sessions helps repair damaged tissue from the workout while also reducing inflammation levels caused by delayed onset soreness (DOMS).

Fitness Nutrition Guide: Fueling during your Workout

Now that we have the essentials covered with pre and post fitness nutrition, if you’re experimenting with fitness sessions longer than 90 minutes, fueling during your workout is a must. Below are some great ideas for fueling on the run.

  • Sweets/fruit are great for quick energy.
  • Proteins and fats can give you a long term fuel source to keep going even after your glycogen stores have been used up.
  • A balanced diet with whole grains, lean meats, vegetables, fruits will provide all the nutrients needed during fitness training.

There is no one perfect food that works across the board for everyone so it’s important to experiment with different foods to see what helps you perform best on race day! Another thing worth mentioning is that some people might need more fat or protein depending on their fitness level and hours of exercise per week they’re putting in at work. Experiment with this as well until you find out what works best for YOU.

In Conclusion

A healthy diet is key for any athlete looking to reach their fitness goals. By eating nutrient-rich whole foods and avoiding processed junk food and caffeine overloads, you’ll set yourself up for success. No one is perfect, and there will be days that you eat the wrong foods. Don’t worry, we are human. Just make sure that the majority of your diet is healthy and you’ll be good to go!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure here.

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Danielle DiPre

Danielle DiPre

How To Start Running When You Hate It | Helping you find motivation from within. Get 5 free workout templates: https://jottingjogger.com/free-workout-printables