The Role of Nutrition in Fitness – Fueling Your Workouts for Optimal Results

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Nutrition is the foundation for achieving fitness goals, supporting muscle recovery, and weight management. It involves a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, and hydration.

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy during exercise. Consuming a carbohydrate rich food or liquid about an hour before workouts optimizes energy levels and reduces fatigue.


Carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel for exercise. When you eat carbs, they are broken down into sugar and then absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose, where it is used for energy during workouts. Insufficient carbohydrate intake can impair performance.

Healthy carbohydrates provide energy for workouts and can also supply nutrients such as fiber, vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrates are found in foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and legumes. They should be a large portion of the overall diet.

It is generally recommended to consume a small amount of carbohydrates (around 50-75 grams) within 30 minutes of starting your workout. The majority of these carbs should be high-glycemic carbs, such as fruit juice, a sports drink, a banana or a slice of toast. These carbs enter the body faster and spike insulin, helping to transport fuel to working muscles. The high-glycemic carbs should also be eaten regularly to keep energy levels consistent and allow for steady progress toward fitness goals.


Proteins are the darling of exercise nutrition, with many high-protein beverages, bars, and cookies touting their effects on workout performance. While it may seem that proteins are over-hyped, they are critical for muscle recovery after a sweat session and to maintain muscle mass.

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel for long bouts of endurance training, while protein is important for muscle repair and growth. It’s also important to note that consuming carbs and protein together (pre- and post-workout) enhances protein synthesis and prevents a decline in energy levels during prolonged exercise.

Choose lean meats, dairy products, fish, tofu, eggs, whole grains and legumes as a source of protein. The essential amino acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine are also beneficial because they independently stimulate protein synthesis during exercise. Consuming foods and/or drinks rich in these amino acids prior to resistance exercise enhances muscle protein synthesis.


As the body’s primary source of energy for low-to-moderate intensity exercises, fats help maintain endurance and prevent premature fatigue. Fats are also a key player in muscle repair and growth, providing essential amino acids that are broken down to fuel your muscles during exercise.

Healthy fats can be a great addition to your pre-workout nutrition as they digest more slowly, which can help delay the depletion of glycogen stores and keep energy levels steady throughout your workout. However, it’s important to avoid foods that are high in saturated and trans fats such as rib-eye steaks, whole milk, full-fat yogurt, bacon and fried chicken.

Since protein takes the longest time to digest, you should aim to consume it within a couple hours of your workout so that it can provide energy and support muscle repair. Good sources of protein include fish, skinless poultry, skim or low-fat milk, eggs, tofu and beans.


Water is the best drink for your body to satisfy thirst and replace fluid lost during exercise. It’s natural, free, readily available, and contains no kilojoules. Drink it before and during exercise, but avoid high sugar sports drinks.

Intake of macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, and fats – directly impacts energy levels during workouts. Carbohydrates are your primary source of fuel and help you maintain endurance, while protein supports muscle repair and growth. Fats provide a backup energy source and also regulate hormones that impact performance.

Proper nutrition also includes the intake of micronutrients – vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – that support overall health, aid in muscle recovery and optimize performance. Focus on eating a variety of whole, nutrient-dense foods and monitor calorie intake to manage weight and meet nutritional needs. It’s important to start with small, realistic nutrition and hydration goals that are sustainable. As your fitness level and needs change, tweak your goals accordingly.

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