6 Protein-Rich Foods to Fuel Your Workouts & Crush Your Goals

Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN

Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, providing education and support prior to and following weight loss surgery.

If you’ve ever been in the middle of a workout and you can't seem to finish due to low energy levels, it’s likely you haven’t fueled up properly with the right foods at the right time. It can be confusing, especially after bariatric surgery, as to what and when to eat before and after exercise. With the right foods, you can crush your workouts and also feel more energized throughout the day. If you really want to master the method, planning is key. It’s best to know when you will be exercising so you can time your meals and snacks accordingly.

The Big Picture

Your body is a machine. Machines need fuel to run. The machine cannot run properly without fuel. If you burn the fuel, it has to be replaced, or it ceases to operate. Your body needs fuel in the form of calories, but more specifically, protein and carbs get the spotlight when fueling-up for exercise. The body, particularly your muscles, store glucose. Glucose is burned during workouts and needs to be repleted to maintain a good energy level. If you feel totally low and sluggish after a workout, odds are you need to replete the glucose that was burned and your blood sugar has dropped. This is why and how we use carbohydrates from food. In addition to carbs, your muscles also need protein to repair, rebuild, and support the metabolism. This concept can help you understand what type of fuel your body needs and when to consume it.

In order to feel the best during your workout, you want to avoid foods that will take a long time to digest. This includes foods high in fat and fiber. Choose a combination of protein and easy-to-digest carbs. Timing is also important. Avoid eating immediately before a workout. Your body needs time to digest what is consumed and balance blood sugar levels. There’s nothing worse than feeling nauseous in the middle of your workout from undigested food sitting in your stomach. Optimally, you should consume something about an hour prior to your workout. If you can't, shoot for 30 minutes prior to exercise and ensure it’s more liquid or carb-based so it can quickly be digested and enter the bloodstream for energy. Try these energy packed options:

Go-To Combinations: 1 Hour Before Exercise

  • Peanut butter + banana (add to toast for more carbs)
  • Fruit smoothie (include protein + fruit + low fat milk or plant-based milk)
  • Bottled protein shake + fresh fruit
  • Greek yogurt + fruit
  • Oats in non-fat milk or soy milk
  • Peanut butter + honey on toast

Go-To Combinations: 30 Minutes Before Exercise

*If you haven’t had anything an hour prior to the workout.

  • Fresh fruit
  • Low fat milk
  • Protein powder + low fat milk

Don’t Forget About Post-Workout!

Pre-workout fuel is vital to a good workout, but don’t forget about your post-workout options for recovery. You’ve used your muscles and burned glucose, so now it’s repair and recovery time. Protein will help to maintain, build, and repair muscle while the carbs will replenish your glucose stores so you don’t feel low on energy for the rest of the day. Check out these options:

  • Bottled protein shake + fresh fruit
  • High protein fruit smoothie (include protein + fruit + low fat milk or plant-based milk)
  • Egg scramble (eggs + cooked veggies)
  • Egg whites + sweet potato
  • High protein Greek yogurt + berries
  • Cottage cheese + pineapple

Try to consume your recovery meal within 1 hour of exercise. Lastly, don’t forget to hydrate! Choose low or no sugar added electrolyte rich fluids to replete electrolytes lost through sweating and to prevent dehydration. Now you’re ready to work out like a pro!

BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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