What Do I Eat When I Exercise? 

Hey guys ... or I mean chicas out there! If you didn''t already know, I'm a fitness instructor and I LOVE it! Through my years of being a fitness enthusiast I've learned what fuels my body the best. I love to eat a small serving of fruit about a half an hour before my workout. Afterward, I scarf down a granola bar. But that's me. Do YOU know what to eat when you exercise? I've asked my friend, Michelle (not to be confused with our very own Mumsy Michelle) to share some of her knowledge on the subject. 
So meet our guest today, Michelle Anderson. Michelle is expecting her first baby this summer! This girl knows her stuff when it comes to nutrition. Her cheesecake is to die for. She knows the secrets to super yummy food in the most healthy way. Yeah, I love this lady. By the time you finish this post you should have a good understanding of what to eat the next time you hit the pavement, gym, yoga mat, or Barre bar. Have a happy week and keep being awesome!


Michelle and her hubby. Aren't they adorable?!

"As a nutrition professional, I get a lot of questions about “best” or “better” eating choices in a variety of life stages. Some of the most common questions I get address nutrition and exercise.

Exercise and nutrition is a simple concept when you break it down. Energy goes into your body in the form of food, and energy is expended as you operate throughout your day and exercise. Weight loss or gain is a difference in this intake and output of energy.

Have you ever felt drained or completely spent after a workout instead of invigorated and energized?

One reason why you may feel drained and spent after a workout, is that you may be incorrectly fueling your body before or after exercise. During exercise your body uses some of it’s energy resources, like a backup generator. You need to prepare and refuel these stores correctly by eating appropriately before and after exercise. If you don’t, it not only can impair performance, but can even cause nausea or vomiting.  Please note that for an everyday exercise, a significant pre-workout supplement or meal is largely unnecessary. (6)

For the average exerciser, the main improvement is most likely recovery refueling after exercise. Include a small snack that has carbohydrates (or grains) and protein eaten within several hours after your exercise. If you have just carbohydrates or just protein it will help refuel, but together they refuel even better (2,3) How much should you include? This in and of itself can be a complicated question. Every person has unique needs. Below is a very general recommendation. Realistically there is a lot of science done on optimizing performance for very elite athletes, but the best refueling is the one you can feasibly and economically do on a regular basis. Keep it simple, and it will be easier to keep it up! Just like any added calories, remember to allocate for these calories in your overall daily eating to avoid excessive weight gain.

Post-workout Recovery
1-3 servings of grains, (4)
5-9g of protein (4)

What does this look like?

1 piece whole wheat toast with peanut butter
1 cup of Greek or regular yogurt with fresh fruit
Small (1/2 cup-1 cup prepared) protein shake
Whole wheat pita bread with hummus
A serving of bean salad
Small handful (1 oz) fresh or roasted nuts and fruit (fresh or dried)
Whole wheat crackers and tuna (be careful of cracker serving sizes)

But if you want to know my personal secret…I’ve been studying the human body and nutrition for years and years now. But I’ve also been a cash strapped student during most of it. The most effective post-workout carbohydrate and protein that I’ve employed is MILK.
It is:
·         cheap
·         easy to drink quickly when not feeling like eating a lot
·         low-fat or fat free
·         loaded with 8g of protein per cup
·         comes in additional flavors-like chocolate!

How much better does it get than milk? If that isn’t enough, you can mix it up in a smoothie! It’s a great way to add fruit and/or veggies for a cool refreshing treat.

But what about ______ product?

In my experience, because of targeted marketing and the desire to improve, many people believe you need a product in order to perform any sort of exercise well. This is simply not true. Your body is an amazing machine that can accomplish most everything that is thrown at it, and adjust and adapt itself. Most of the time if you are eating regularly, not exercising on an empty stomach, and not exercising longer than an hour continuously, your body will be able to adapt and perform.

There are hundreds and thousands of product out on the market advertising to be the best “recovery” or best “pre-workout prep”. What it really comes down to is that if you are exercising vigorously for more than 45 minutes continuously (excluding a warm up) you need to replenish electrolytes. However, this does NOT mean that you need a 30g protein bar that can cost you almost 300 kilocalories! The market does not want you to know that you can get refueling from much cheaper sources than what they are selling. Also, due to limited regulation in the supplement industry, many of the claims have very little hard science if any behind them when they claim to be the “best” or “necessary”. I’ve learned some very eye-opening things about many products. Be smart and be aware that regardless of a company’s mission statement-they are out to make money, not unilaterally enhance your nutrition. Often the best and cheapest way to refuel your body is with what it was meant to refuel with-food!

Disclaimer Note: the best way to gauge your body is you. No nutrition professional, doctor, or coach spends as much time with your body as you do. You can tell when you’re feeling more exhausted. You can tell that your weight is not budging, or plateauing. Do not discredit your own feelings about yourself, and factor those into your goals."  

-Michelle Anderson
B.S. Dietetics
USU Dietetic Intern


1.  Nemet D, Wolach B, Eliakim A. Proteins and amino acid supplementation in sports: Are they really necessary? Isr. Med. Assoc. J. 2005 7:328-332.
2. Ferguson-Stegall L, McCleave EL, Ding Z, Doerner PG 3rd, Wang B, Liao YH, Kammer L, Liu Y, Hwang J, Dessard BM, Ivy JL. Postexercise carbohydrate-protein supplementation improves subsequent exercise performance and intracellular signaling for protein synthesis. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 May;25(5):1210-24.

3. Ivy JL, Goforth HW Jr, Damon BM, McCauley TR, Parsons EC, Price TB. Early postexercise muscle glycogen recovery is enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. J Appl Physiol. 2002 Oct 93;4:1337-44. 

4. Mahan, L. K., Escott-Stump, S., Raymond, J. L., & Krause, M. V. Krause's food & the nutrition care process (13th ed.). St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier/Saunders. 2012


  1. Great post! Well done, Michelle! And Natashia, I love that picture!!

  2. Thanks Lisa! Its just as important to know how to fuel your body as it is to exercise. Seeing your comment makes me smile. And isn't Michelle just awesome!?

  3. During exercise session managing eating habit is one of the most vital part and we have to handle this part very carefully. If we don't know that what to eat during exercise then we will never be able to get proper benefits from our exercise and that's why we have to know it. Thanks

  4. Gym Matthews thanks for commenting! Glad you found us! It is really important.