Food and Exercise: Timing is everything

food clock


By Matt Nelson

In my experience as a college athlete and years dedicated to nutrition and fitness, I have learned that by making simple adjustments to WHAT and WHEN you eat around your workout, you will see noticeable changes in your energy levels and body.

It is two weeks into the New Year and hopefully you are still following the resolutions you set for yourself. Your resolution may be to eat healthily, lose weight and become physically active.  These are all noble resolutions, and balancing all three together will give you the best opportunity for meeting your goals.

The most common mistake people make when attempting to lose weight and workout is to eat less than usual and then head to the gym or park for an intense workout without the proper nutrition. This strategy may net you some short term results, but will quickly lead to a feeling of being burnt out.  This feeling leads to a failed resolution and a return to the lifestyle you previously lived.  Changing your body needs to be viewed as a marathon, not a sprint, so easing into a renewed active lifestyle and making small adjustments along the way is key.

The car comparison

If you think of your body as a high-powered sports car (because that’s the kind of car I would want to be associated with), it needs to be fueled with premium gas and on a more regular basis than a typical car. To draw a comparison, food is the fuel that provides energy for your body to sustain activity.  If you fuel your body with high-quality foods, it will result in the ability to workout longer and more efficiently.

fueling the car

A brief lesson in calories

The energy provided by food is measured in calories. We’ve all heard of calories and need to realize that they are nothing to be afraid of.  The key is to eat the right number of calories in a day to match your new or revamped active lifestyle.  To keep things simple, there are three nutrients that provide calories in food; proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

3 nutrientscropped table

Each nutrient provides a different function when digested by your body. So, eating foods high in a certain nutrient around your workouts will provide the proper fuel your body needs to work out and recover effectively. What you eat is important, but from my experience, when you eat is just as significant.

 Before your workout

Load up on carbohydrates

It is essential to eat roughly 30-45 minutes before you work out. By the time you begin your workout, your body will feel nourished and your “gas tank” will be on full.  Of the three calorie sources, carbohydrates provide the best energy source before a workout.  If you typically do not eat before working out, try making this recipe and you will see a noticeable difference in your sustainable energy levels!

Cherry Almond Granola Bars

CA bars

To take granola and mold it into a granola bar, you’ll need to heat honey and almond butter and mix them together until emulsified.

CA bars2

 After you workout

Choose a meal high in protein but also containing carbohydrates

Post-work out nutrition is of utmost importance for muscle growth and recovery. Your muscles are primed to be repaired after putting them through a demanding workout, and protein is exactly what they need!  If you are interested in learning more about the science of protein, click here.

Many foods and combinations are great for post workouts. For example, something as simple as a glass of chocolate milk can have the same effect as a high priced protein shake.  Many athletes and bodybuilders are already in on this delightful secret.

Take a look for yourself…

My go to post workout meal is Greek yogurt and granola. This combination is loaded with protein and just the right amount of carbs to replenish worn out muscles. A typical serving of Greek yogurt has 15 to 20 grams of protein and 5 to 8 grams of carbohydrates according to Kurtis Hiatt from U.S. News & Health.

Granola and Yogurt 2

Greek yogurt and granola is an excellent combination for a post workout snack. Try a couple of these for yourself:

Stoneyfield Organic Plain Greek yogurt with Granola Factory Organic Grains & Honey granola.


Wegmans Organic Vanilla Greek yogurt with Granola Factory Native Berry granola

 nativeberrygranolawegmans vanilla



About the author:  Matt Nelson is an account manager at The Granola Factory. Matt earned a B.S. in Marketing from Rowan University and played four years of college baseball.

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