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The Role of Nutrition and Hydration in Exercise and Fatigue

The Role of Nutrition and Hydration in Exercise and Fatigue

Proper nutrition and hydration are vital to achieve optimum exercise performance, especially during prolonged workouts, requiring careful meal planning before, during, and after physical activity. The role of nutrition and hydration in exercise and fatigue should always be considered to achieve significant results and avoid health issues.

Exercise Fuel

During exercise, your body relies on fat and carbohydrates as fuel, with a key emphasis on carbohydrates. This is because we typically have sufficient fat stores for extended activities, but our carbohydrate reserves, like muscle glycogen, can run low after intense workouts lasting over 90 minutes or during longer, moderate exercises lasting several hours.

If you don't refuel your carbohydrate stores between workouts, they can become depleted, reducing your exercise performance. This is especially noticeable in marathon runners, whose glycogen-depleted muscles can only manage a slow jog toward a race's end.

Exercise Fluid

Staying fully hydrated is crucial for your well-being and exercise performance. Dehydration diminishes blood volume and sweat formation, impairing oxygen delivery to muscles and heat regulation, ultimately hampering your workout. Therefore, starting exercise well-hydrated and consistently drinking fluids during exercise is vital in preventing dehydration.

RELATED: How to Balance Exercise and Diet for a Healthy Lifestyle

Nutrition and Hydration Before Exercise

The Role of Nutrition and Hydration in Exercise and Fatigue

What to eat before a workout?

For a typical exercise, our stored fat and carbohydrates can sufficiently fuel the session, as observed in those who walk or jog before breakfast, but for longer or intense workouts, eating a meal one to four hours prior can maximize glycogen stores. Remember, the closer your meal is to your workout, the lighter and easier to digest it should be, with a focus on carbs and some protein to avoid stomach discomfort during exercise.

Consuming the appropriate macronutrients before exercising improves performance. The ideal ratio differs for each person and type of workout, so it's best to consult a health professional or nutritionist to better support your workout plan and diet.


Eat the healthy carbs.

Dig in a bowl of whole-grain cereal with skim milk, whole-wheat toast, low or fat-free yogurt, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, and some fruits and veggies to serve as your body's fuel before working out.

Muscles rely on glucose from carbohydrates for energy, stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles.

During short, intense exercises, glycogen stores are the primary energy source, but for longer exercises, the impact of carbohydrates depends on factors like intensity, training type, and diet.

Depleted glycogen stores can lower output and intensity, but studies have shown that consuming carbs can increase glycogen stores and utilization during exercise.


Feed your body healthful protein sources, such as eggs, chicken, salmon, beans, lentils, and nuts.

Pre-workout protein can boost athletic performance, with studies showing it enhances muscle protein synthesis when consumed before exercise. Additionally, it offers benefits like increased muscle mass, better recovery, enhanced strength, and improved muscle performance.


Fats provide essential energy. However, it's the healthy fats our body needs to stay healthy.

Saturated and trans fats can harm health, whereas unsaturated fats found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil offer various health benefits.


Your body relies on water for proper function. Staying well-hydrated can boost performance. Dehydration can lead to performance declines.

To maintain fluid balance, it's recommended to consume a mix of water and sodium before exercise. Drink slowly starting at least four hours before working out and adjust if your urine is too little or dark. Adding sodium can help retain fluids.

Hydration Before, During, and After Exercise

We lose significant electrolytes and fluids through sweat whenever we exercise. It's recommended to consume 20 to 24 ounces of liquid for each pound of lost water. While water suffices in many cases, sports drinks with electrolytes and carbohydrates can be beneficial, particularly for workouts lasting over 60 minutes.

To maintain proper hydration during exercise, it's advised to drink gradually 16 to 24 ounces of water two to three hours before workouts, four to eight ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during workouts, and 16 to 24 ounces for each pound of lost fluid after a workout to prevent dehydration.

Nutrition and Hydration After Exercise

The Role of Nutrition and Hydration in Exercise and Fatigue

After sweating it out and getting those muscles ripped, you might ask yourself: what kinds of food to eat after a workout?

Knowing how exercise affects your body is key to understanding how specific foods can assist in recovery, with muscles depleting glycogen and undergoing protein breakdown during workouts. Consuming the right mix of carbohydrates and protein after exercise can accelerate the rebuilding of glycogen stores, muscle protein growth, and recovery enhancement.

After exercising, your body's ability to rebuild glycogen and protein is boosted. Therefore, it's advised to consume a combination of carbs and protein as soon as possible post-workout. While earlier recommendations stressed a 45-minute window for this, recent research suggests the window to maximize the muscular response to protein can extend to several hours.


Exercise breaks down muscle protein, and the extent depends on your workout and training level, even for well-trained athletes. Consuming enough protein throughout the day supplies the necessary amino acids for protein repair and building new muscle tissue. It's suggested to spread out protein intake every three hours in small meals, with 20 to 40 grams recommended per interval. Eating protein before exercising might reduce your post-exercise intake without compromising recovery.

If muscle building is the goal, consuming high-quality protein within two hours of exercising can stimulate the creation of new muscle tissue.

After working out, have your fill of protein with eggs, salmon, chicken, quinoa, beans, cheese, yogurt, and the like


Consuming carbs after your workout refills your body's used glycogen stores. The rate at which your body uses glycogen depends on the activity, with endurance sports utilizing more than resistance training.

To maximize glycogen stores, consider a high-carb diet of 3.6 to 5.5 grams per pound (8 to 12 grams per kilogram) of body weight each day. Combining carbs and protein after exercise can optimize glycogen and protein synthesis by enhancing insulin secretion.

As with your pre-workout meal, eat whole-grain cereals with skim milk or whole-grain rice or pasta with your lean protein meat choice. You can also add fruits and veggies for a healthier fill.


Although fat is burned during exercise and serves as a lasting energy source, it usually doesn't need immediate replenishment post-workout because your body likely has ample fat stores. Choosing lower-fat recovery foods is often recommended, considering the theory that faster nutrient absorption aids better recovery, and fats might slow down the process. However, some research suggests that fat intake doesn't harm recovery and can even offer anti-inflammatory benefits.

#wemovetogether for a Healthier Lifestyle

Nutrition and hydration, with the right balance of carbs, proteins, and fluids before and after exercising, are crucial as they promote muscle protein synthesis, aid recovery, and boost performance for your next workout and your overall #healthgoals.

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