Fit Foods: Fuel, Sustain, Recover


From Fitness Trainer January/February

So what did you eat today?”—Asking that question right there can make the difference between an effective training session and, well, a waste of yours and your client’s time. Because if they haven’t properly fueled, they certainly aren’t going to properly make it through that day’s segment of the overall program.

“Adequate food and fluid should be consumed before, during, and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance, and improve recovery time,” according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). “Athletes should be well hydrated before exercise and drink enough fluid during and after exercise to balance fluid losses.”

Now that we have the ACSM backing us, how are we as fitness trainers going to convey to, and convince, our clients of the importance of the Fuel, Sustain, Recover concept? Uh, with some tasty bites of course! Just let the foods pack the flavor, while you pack the nutrient knowledge.

  • No Fuel = Risk of plummeting energy along with blood sugar levels while limiting caloric burn.
  • Fuel at least two hours before exercise.
  • Fuel should be easily digestible to allow for a comfortable workout.
  • Fuel with ….
  • Carbohydrates such as whole grains including oatmeal, brown rice, barley, and millet.
  • Carbohydrates such as fruits including bananas, raisins, mangos, and pineapples.
  • Water to aid in hydration.
  • Avoid pumping up with saturated fats and proteins such as beans, meat, and seafood which are slower to digest, in turn eating up energy.
  • Not Sustaining energy sources = Risk of fatigue mid workout, as well as dehydration which could lead to injury.
  • Sustaining energy sources such as 3 to 8 ounces of fluid should be taken every 15 minutes while exercising.
  • Sustain with …

  • Water, as dehydration which occurs when more than 2 percent of body weight is lost from a water deficit, can cause muscle fatigue and cramping and increase chance of heat stroke.
  • Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and chloride are lost via sweat during a workout. Sports gels and powders—especially those that contain amino acids, can aid in performance while setting up a foundation for muscle recovery.
  • Carbohydrates, in particular 6% carbohydrate (14 grams of carbohydrate [natural juices, sports gels, and powders per 8 ounces of water) is the optimal percentage of carbs for speeding fluid and energy back into the body.
  • Not biting into Recovery foods = Risks adequate muscle recovery and any chance of obtaining and maintaining gains.
  • Recovery foods should be eaten within 90 minutes of a workout.
  • Recover with …

  • Water is crucial in the rebuilding of muscle fibers.
  • Carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and brown rice are crucial as the body’s glycogen and glucose stores have been tapped, which means the stress hormone cortisol has an opening to feast on muscle protein for energy; however carbs after a workout aid in an insulin (anabolic hormones) release which helps in the rebuilding of muscle fibers.
  • Protein such as plant-based, red meat, poultry, and seafood are crucial as just as the body needs carbs post workout to avoid the use of muscle protein for energy it needs straight up protein.


Zahra Williams is a certified Sports Performance coach and Fitness trainer, she is certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Zahra currently owns her own sports training business called 3D Xplosive Performance. She was the head Strength and Conditioning coach for Montgomery Junior College in Maryland. (800) 920-3310

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