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  • Writer's pictureAndrea O'Donnell, MA, NTP

How Your Diet Impacts Your Workout Performance

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

As the saying goes, "you are what you eat," and when it comes to exercise, this couldn't be more true. What you eat before, during, and after your workout can have a big impact on your performance, recovery, and results. By now most people know that diet and nutrition are essential components of overall health and well-being. However, a well-balanced diet plays a crucial role in providing the necessary nutrients and energy required for optimal physical performance. When it comes to exercise and fitness, what you eat can significantly impact your workout performance. Have you ever noticed that when you eat certain foods, like pasta, foods high in sugar, and/or processed foods, that while you may feel an immediate uptake in energy, it’s usually followed by a crash. This is your blood sugar signaling to you that there is not enough energy to sustain the hours of work. Once in a while your body can accommodate this spike, but overtime your body will start to release more and more glucose, causing a cascade of insulin release and insulin resistance. Proper nutrition can help you achieve your fitness goals by providing the necessary fuel to power through your workouts, increase endurance, and aid in muscle recovery. On the other hand, a poor diet can hinder your workout performance and make it challenging to see progress. Below, are three ways that your diet impacts your workout performance 1. Energy levels Macronutrients are the building blocks of a healthy diet, and they include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Each macronutrient plays a specific role in the body and is essential for optimal physical performance. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body and are crucial for high-intensity workouts. Proteins are essential for muscle growth and repair, while fats provide energy and aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals. The distribution of macronutrients in your diet can impact your workout performance. Your body needs energy to exercise, and the primary source of energy is carbohydrates. If you don't eat enough carbs before your workout, you may feel sluggish, fatigued, and unable to perform at your best. Conversely, if you eat too many carbs, you may experience a blood sugar crash mid-workout. This lack of energy availability can impact your workout performance and hinder your ability to reach your fitness goals. A study conducted by the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that low energy availability can lead to a decrease in muscle strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity. If you don't eat enough carbs before your workout, you may feel sluggish, fatigued, and unable to perform at your best. Conversely, if you eat too many carbs, you may experience a blood sugar crash mid-workout. Another study conducted by the Journal of the International Society of


Sports Nutrition found that a high-carbohydrate diet can improve endurance exercise performance, while a high-protein diet can improve muscle strength and power. 2. Hydration Proper hydration is essential for optimal workout performance. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, dizziness, and cramping, which can all negatively impact your workout. Water is needed to regulate body temperature, transport nutrients to cells, and remove waste products from the body. Dehydration can lead to a decrease in physical performance, fatigue, and muscle cramps. A study conducted by the Journal of Athletic Training found that even mild dehydration can lead to a decrease in physical performance and an increase in perceived exertion. 3. Mental focus Finally, what you eat can also impact your mental focus and mood during your workout. Eating a balanced meal with healthy carbohydrates, protein, and fats can help stabilize your blood sugar and prevent brain fog. Conversely, consuming high-sugar or processed foods can lead to a crash mid-workout and make it difficult to stay focused. 4 nutrition tips to increase workout performance: 1. Pay attention to what you are eating Oftentimes, adults overlook the importance of nutrition basics. Not getting enough vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can compromise your health and your performance. Yet fueling up for activity is as easy as following the well-established rules of a healthy diet: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, consume lean proteins, eat healthy fats, get your whole-grain carbohydrates, and drink plenty of fluids, especially water. 2. Fuel your body before a workout Finding the right balance is key. Focus on getting in enough protein, carbs and fat with each meal. Before a workout, it's recommended to eat high carbs and fat to increase endurance, while after a workout. Skimping on nutrition can reduce muscle mass, lower bone density and cause fatigue. This puts you at risk of injury and illness, increases recovery time, causes hormonal problems, and, for women, menstrual issues. 3. Focus on the Macronutrients Research over the past 50 years has shown that carbs help your body during long and high-intensity exercise. In fact, the more active you are, the more carbs you need. During a workout, carbohydrates fuel your brain and muscles. Pick healthy carbs like brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain bread and pasta, sweet potatoes, fruits, and vegetables. Protein is important because it provides the amino acids your body needs to build and repair muscle. Protein is really the building block of all muscles. It is very important to look at the quality of protein - grass-fed beef, organic chicken, cage-free eggs, wild-caught salmon, whole-fat organic yogurt - as they provide higher sources of vitamins and minerals.


Fat has been given a bad reputation, but it's essential to a healthy diet. Fat provides energy and helps your body absorb vitamins. Some vitamins (like A, D, E and K) actually need fat to properly benefit your body. Be sure to pick good quality fats. Good sources include: avocado, coconut oil, MCT oil, olive oils, flaxseed and nuts, along with wild caught salmon and sardines to give you a proper amount of omega 3s. 4. Post-work Muscle recovery After your workout, your body needs protein to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. Eating protein within 30 minutes to an hour after your workout can help speedup muscle recovery and reduce soreness. Additionally, consuming carbohydrates post-workout can help replenish glycogen stores in your muscles, which can help improve your next workout. A good example is a protein smoothie with a high quality protein, organic fruit and avocado or nut butter. 5. Hydration Be sure to drink plenty of water before, and after your workout, especially in hot or humid conditions. While you workout, limit water intake to small sips, to not upset your stomach. It is recommended to drink half your body weight in ounces of water, however, it depends on your activity level, age, if you are pregnant and so on. Also, it is recommended to drink the proper amount of electrolytes to ensure that you are getting enough trace minerals to stay hydrated. Your diet plays a crucial role in your workout performance. By fueling your body with the right nutrients before, during, and after your workout, you can improve your energy levels, endurance, muscle recovery, hydration, and mental focus. Remember, abs are made in the kitchen and revealed in the gym - focus on proper nutrition to live a healthy and fit life! About Andrea O’Donnell: Andrea O'Donnell is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Breathwork Facilitator, and holds a Master’s in Counseling, and is the owner of Rising Roots Nutrition. Rising Roots Nutrition provides proven tools and one-on-one support to identify and address the root cause of your health concerns so you can get well. Digestive issues...weight problems…low energy…high cholesterol…and more. Whatever you are struggling with, let us help you reverse your symptoms, live healthier and feel great. If you are interested in learning more about how Rising Roots Nutrition can support you in your help journey, reach out for a free 30-minute discovery call at (949) 329-4441 or email at andrea@risingrootsnutrition.com. Check out the website for more information at www.risingrootsnutrition.com. Sources: Deutz, R.C.,Benardot, D., Martin,D.E., Cody, M.M.,and Sundgot-Borgen, J. (2000). A high protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during caloric restriction in athletes. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 15(3), 92-99.


Burke, L.M., Kiens, B., and Ivy, J.L. (2004).Carbohydrates and fat for trainingand recovery. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 1(2), 1-12.


Casa, D.J., Armstrong, L.E., Hillman, S.K.,Montain, S.J., Reiff,R.V., Rich, B.S.,Roberts, W.O., Stone, J.A., and National Athletic Trainers' Association. (2000). National Athletic Trainers' Association position statement: Fluid replacement for athletes. Journal of Athletic Training, 35(2), 212-224.

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