Whether lifting in the gym or crushing your next group fitness class, the food choices you make to power your workout are just as important as the workout itself. Diet and nutrition have been top-of-mind these past two years. In a recent YouFit Gyms survey to members, nearly 50% of all members polled pay closer attention to their diet and nutrition today than they did pre-pandemic.
So, what foods can take your workout to the next level? To start, make sure each meal you consume has a balance of macronutrients – carbs, fat, and protein. According to Ale Zozos MS, RDM, LD, and Senior Dietitian at EatLove – YouFit Gyms’ official partner for nutritional guidance – macros play an essential role in your fueling and recovery regimen.
- Carbohydrates are the most efficient at converting food to energy and are especially valuable during short-term, higher-intensity workouts, as our bodies will pull energy from these stores to keep you in tip-top shape.
- Fat as energy in the form of fatty acids comes into play during more extended, less intense periods of exercise – think long-distance running. Unlike carbs, the digestion and conversion of fat into energy takes much longer. That said, it’s best to eat fat a few hours before your workout.
- Proteins break down into amino acids and can also be used for energy, but their primary role is to make new cells, maintain and build muscle, and perform many other essential tasks in the body, making them go-to foods to power your workouts.
Top 5 Registered Dietitian-Approved Foods to Power Your Workout
Oats are a complex carb that provides tons of readily available energy for your workouts. They also have more fat and protein than most grains, making them a more balanced choice when it comes to your macros. As Zozos points out, “one cup of oats contains 8g of fiber including beta-glucans, a type of soluble fiber that produces feelings of fullness.” Whether you choose oats as a standalone snack or build it into a meal, this food is sure to power your workout.
Trail mix comes in all shapes and sizes but usually contains a blend of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and even the occasional chocolate chip. It is compact, portable, and full of energy including, healthy fats, protein, and simple sugar carbohydrates from dried fruit and chocolate. As a bonus, dried fruit contains antioxidants like polyphenols, which improve blood flow. It’s our favorite on-the-go food to power your workout.
Greek Yogurt has a little bit of everything, especially protein, making it a good pre/post-workout snack or part of a larger meal. It is also high in calcium which is great for building and repairing bones and muscles after a more intense workout.
Peanut butter is another balanced energy source but higher in fat and protein, making it a good choice before or after your workout for muscle recovery. Zozos suggests pairing your peanut butter with a piece of fruit or toast for more nutrients. She notes, “not only can you fuel your pre-workout, but you can also replenish your glycogen stores post-workout when refueling with enough carbohydrates.”
Water & Electrolyte Drinks
No matter the workout, fluids are a must pre, during, and post-exercise to reduce your risk of dehydration and keep performance at its peak. Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium are minerals that help regulate the balance of fluid in your body and keep muscles from cramping. The type and length of your workout and your sweat rate will determine how much to replenish with and if you should include more electrolytes in your recovery. When enjoyed for pre-workout fueling and post-workout recovery, these nutrient-dense foods keep you strong and healthy and push your workouts further.
Fuel up with these dietitian-approved foods to power your workout.