Whether you’re training for a marathon or want to fuel your body correctly for your daily workouts, proper nutrition is essential to getting the most out of your workouts and to improving your strength, endurance, and recovery. Follow these eating guidelines from Mankato’s Hy-Vee Riverfront’s nutritionist Holly Ellison for pre-exercise, mid-exercise, and post-exercise to reach your peak performance level!


Fuel is necessary if your event is longer than 60 minutes to restock glycogen (carbohydrates in our liver and muscles) and avoid “hitting the wall”. Proper fueling also helps the body burn fat for energy, and helps athletes avoid burning protein for energy.

As a general rule, you will want to consume 2 calories per pound of lean body weight, so a 150-pound runner with a body composition of 15 percent fat (127.5 pounds of lean tissue) would need 255 calories one hour prior to training (energy bar). *Focus on eating a healthy carbohydrate and a source of protein.

Drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid in the one to two hours prior to exercise to help aid in digestion and hydration.

AVOID: Foods rich in fiber (less than 5 grams per serving), protein (less than 15 grams) and fat (less than 3 grams per serving). These foods are more difficult to break down and may cause an upset stomach.

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The best pre-workout meal is one that works best for the individual and is not digested too rapidly.  Try one of these quick, healthy options:

  • Banana with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • Low-fat yogurt and a piece of fruit
  • Oatmeal made with skim milk and fruit
  • Trail mix with nuts and fruit
  • Granola with low-fat milk and fruit
  • A smoothie made with low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit, and wheat germ or flax meal
  • Bagel or English muffin topped with a little peanut butter and a sliced banana
  • Raisin toast with a cooked egg or egg whites and diluted cranberry juice
  • Cereal topped with sliced banana and nonfat or low-fat milk
  • Pancakes or waffles topped with low-fat yogurt and fresh fruit
  • Greek yogurt


In order to prevent “hitting the wall” and to increase fat-burning capabilities, it’s essential to start refueling the body’s fuel tank after about 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-to-high intensity exercise.

Hourly calorie needs following 60 to 90 minutes of exercise: 2 calories x lean body weight in pounds

  • High-glycemic carbohydrates (such as energy gels, sports drinks)
    • 1 gram of protein for every 4-7 grams of carbohydrate may help enhance endurance performance by as much as 24 percent during 2+-hour events.
  • Smaller amounts of carbs more frequently help prevent an upset stomach

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Drink up! Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, muscle cramping, muscle fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and chills. Water is all you need for events lasting less than one hour. Beverages containing carbohydrate and sodium are recommended during exercise lasting longer than one hour.

Guidelines for staying adequately hydrated during long events – training or racing:

2 hours before event

15 minutes before event

During event, every 15-20 minutes

After event

2 cups fluid

2 cups fluid

4-6 oz. fluid (1/2 – ¾ cup)

2-3 cups fluid for every pound lost



To best promote replenishing of muscle glycogen stores, consume carbohydrate-rich foods within 15 minutes after the workout has ended. Eat 250-300 calories of whole foods with a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein; This breaks down to about 50-60 grams of carbs and 12-15 grams of protein. *Waiting longer than two hours to eat results in 50 percent less glycogen stored in the muscle.

Replenishing the fluid lost during exercise is the most essential part of recovery. To ensure proper rehydration post-workout, you should know your typical “sweat rate” and drink two cups for every one pound of body weight lost. *To find your sweat rate, weigh yourself prior to your run and directly afterwards.

Good fluid choices include: water, high-water-content fruit (watermelon, grapes, melon and oranges), and high-carbohydrate sports drinks.

Repletion of electrolytes: The following are common recovery foods, which are high in essential electrolytes:

  • Potatoes
  • Yogurt
  • Orange juice
  • Bananas
  • Soup
  • Cereals
  • Cheese
  • Breads

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Post-Exercise Meals:

  • 8 fluid ounces of orange juice and two slices of bread
  • 12-16 oz chocolate milk
  • Cereal with milk and a banana
  • Fruit-flavored yogurt with low-fat granola and an orange
  • Turkey and cheese sub sandwich with pretzels and an apple
  • Cinnamon-raisin bagel with a fruit-and-yogurt smoothie
  • Pasta with lean meat sauce and a tossed salad with vinaigrette
  • Dried fruit and low-fat cheese
  • Vegetable bean soup and a roll
  • Greek yogurt

Following these nutrition guidelines will help you feel your best and perform at the highest level possible.