Nutrition and Exercise: Working in Harmony


We all know that nutrition and exercise both play a role in a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to put our best efforts forth in both areas, and when we can get them to work in harmony, the results can be pretty awesome! I want to focus on how you can use real foods to maximize the benefits of combining a good diet with exercise.

Breakfast as the most important meal of the day is not a cliché– my cardinal rules are: “Don’t skip breakfast!” as well as “Consume a protein within one hour of waking.” Proper, balanced nutrition means each meal should be made up of 40-50% carbs, 20-30% protein, and 30% fat from high quality food sources. During breakfast, go for it and push your protein intake to 30%. Eating protein within the first hour of waking provides amino acids as fuel for the body. It will also kick start your metabolism, stabilize your blood sugar, support your energy levels, and set the pace for your day.

Generally, you should have at least an hour to digest between eating and exercising. If you like to get going early in the morning, or just don’t have time for a big meal before a workout, try a smaller carb+protein+fat combo at least 20-30 minutes prior to exercising. I recommend an apple with almond butter – it is light enough that you shouldn’t have any problem with stomach upset, while still getting the energy you need, as well as healthy fats from the almond butter, and antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties from the apple.

During your workout be sure to stay hydrated with water. An added bonus is putting some essential trace minerals in your water. In some cases, an electrolyte boost may work to your benefit. If you work out again within eight hours of your workout, or you are sweating excessively (hot yoga, training in the heat), electrolytes will help keep you hydrated and get the ball rolling on the recovery process.

If you are working out to build muscle, a protein+carb smoothie could be beneficial during your workout. If you are working out for long periods of time (more than two hours), definitely make sure you are replenishing with electrolytes, carbs, and protein.

Fuel sources during a workout:
1) Water! Try adding essential trace minerals for maximum hydration
2) Electrolytes: coconut water (no commercial sports drinks!)
3) Carb+protein smoothie (mentioned in breakfast)
4) Trail mix: cashews, almonds, pistachios, goji berries, cacao nibs, golden raisins, etc
5) Almond butter on a rice cake

Throughout the day, hydration is just as important. Don’t know how much water to drink? Divide your body weight in half – that number is how many ounces of water you need a day. Balanced, nutritious snacks and meals continue to work to your advantage after your workout. If you’ve followed the previous guidelines about eating before your workout, then the most important thing is simply eating a balanced snack or meal within a couple hours after your workout.
Before your workout if you didn’t eat within 3-4 hours, or ate a small unbalanced meal, then the more imperative it is to eat a balanced meal after your workout – within the first hour post-workout is a good guideline.

Breakfast ideas to support diet and exercise:
-2-3 egg spinach omelet cooked in ghee or olive oil
-Smoothie made up of:

  • an easily digested carb, like a banana
  • a high quality protein, like hemp protein powder
  • liquid as needed (water, coconut water, unsweetened almond milk) 

Smoothie recipe example:
-1 scoop protein powder (plant based or whey)
-1 cup leafy greens (spinach, kale)
-½ cup carbs (berries, banana)
-1 T fats (nuts , flax seeds, coconut oil, avocado)
-1/4 cup liquid (coconut water)

Snack ideas to support diet and exercise:
-Tuna and gluten-free whole grain crackers
-Fresh veggies and hummus
-Fruit with a handful of nuts of nut butter

Lunch and dinner ideas to support diet and exercise:
-Collard green wraps with a hummus spread, stuffed with veggies and a lean protein (think organic, free range chicken or turkey)
-Roasted salmon and asparagus over brown rice

In short, the cardinal rules about combining nutrition and exercise:

Diet is made up of nutritious, high quality foods
Diet is comprised of 40%-30%-30% of carbs-protein-fat
Eat something within 30 minutes – 2 hours before and after your workout
Eat a protein at breakfast within the first hour of waking
Fat is essential to your diet, but be cautious around workouts as it is difficult to digest
Coconut water for an electrolyte boost during or after your workout
Hydrate throughout the day

Remember, everyone is different! There is no perfect diet +exercise regimen that works for everyone. These tips are meant to serve as a resource for you. Listen to your body and decide for yourself what works best for you and your lifestyle!

By Sierra Buckley