September 14, 2017

Nutrition for Exercise – How to Fuel Your Body to Maximize Results

By Rachel Wyman
Clinical Nutrition Educator

This week’s high-profile release of The TB12 Method, authored by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, has shined a light on how elite athletes fine-tune their diet to help their bodies perform at the highest level. While most of us will never take the field in the NFL, there are many ways that nutrition can help all of us — from the once-in-a-while exercise novice to the extreme weekend warrior — feel more energized through workouts and maximize the health benefits from exercise.

Below are some basic guidelines to follow. Remember that these recommendations apply to the average exerciser and will need to be adjusted and personalized to meet your needs for athletic competitions. Seek the help of a registered dietitian nutritionist for best results.


  • Drink 16-20 ounces of water 2 hours before exercise.
  • Drink 6-8 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes during exercise.
  • Rehydrate with at least 8-16 ounces of water immediately after exercise.

Calories, Carbohydrate, Protein, Fat

  • Unless you are planning to exercise for 10 hours or more per week, you can meet your calorie needs following a normal diet.
  • To supply energy for muscle movement, about half of your calories should come from complex carbohydrates foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
  • To help maintain and repair muscle tissue, about a quarter of your calories should come from lean proteins, such as lean meats, poultry, seafood, low-fat dairy and soy.
  • To help with nutrient absorption, about a quarter of your calories should come from plant-based fats, such as nuts, seeds, olives and avocado.

Nutrient Timing

  • Eat a well-balanced meal of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and plant-based fats three to four hours prior to exercise. Meal examples include: 1) a grilled chicken sandwich on a whole grain bun topped with spinach, tomato and sliced avocado; 2) a cup of Greek yogurt topped with berries and pistachios; or 3) a piece of marinated tempeh on kale carrot salad topped with sesame dressing. Choose options that are high in fiber to promote a long sustained steady release of energy.
  • If you work out early in the morning, instead of exercising on an empty stomach, eat a light carbohydrate and protein snack 30-60 minutes prior to exercise. Snack examples include: 1) a whole grain mini bagel with a slice of low-fat cheese; 2) a piece of fruit with a light cheese stick; or 3) a packet of oatmeal with soy milk. Choose options that are low in fat and low to moderate in fiber to help speed up digestion and minimize stomach distress.
  • There is no need to eat a post exercise snack if you will be eating a meal within two hours. Just be sure to include a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat in your meal as detailed earlier. If your meal will be delayed, then eat a light carbohydrate and protein snack, such as the examples mentioned earlier.

Rachel Wyman, RD, is Clinical Nutrition Educator at Mission Weight Management.

To learn more about Mission Weight Management and to sign up for a free information session, call (828) 213-4100 or visit


American Dietetic Association. (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109 (3), 509-527.

Kreider, R. B., Wilborn, C. D., Taylor, L., Campbell, B., Almada, A. L., Collins, R., … Antonio, J. (2010). ISSN exercise & sport nutrition review: research & recommendations. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7(1), 7. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-7

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