Filling your body with the right fuel can help improve your workout performance. While overlooking pre-workout nutrition is easy to do, it may come at a cost in performance. Taking the time to fuel your body the right way helps ensure optimal performance for both adults and young athletes.

“We wouldn’t jump into the car to take off for a drive without making sure it was properly fueled with gas and oil, and it’s the same concept for the human body,” explains Coach Sarah Walls, personal trainer and owner of SAPT Strength & Performance Training, Inc., who is also the strength and conditioning coach for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. “In order to get the best performance from our bodies, we have to be properly fueled, which comes from eating and drinking the right things.”

Getting the right foods before a workout can make a big difference in overall performance. The body uses glycogen when exercising, which is carbohydrates stored in the muscles. When your body depletes this carb supply, you “hit the wall.”

Here are Coach  Walls’ tips for being properly fueled for workouts:

  1. Know your body and how it tolerates food before exercise. That way you can calculate how far in advance you need to fuel up. Ideally, you want to fuel your body one to three hours before exercise, so that it has the fuel it needs to perform, but isn’t focused on digesting as you are trying to engage in activity.
  2. Before a workout, your body needs carbs and protein. Of which, the carbs fuel your energy while protein keeps hunger at bay. Think apples, dried fruit, lean protein sources, yogurt, bananas, pretzels, rice, or low-fat granola. It’s a good idea to skip foods high in fat and fiber, which may cause some distress while exercising.
  3. During the workout; for those of you participating in endurance training like long runs and sports activities. You can gain additional fuel from sports drinks, fruit, low-fiber cereal bars or granola.
  4. Hydration matters before, during and after a workout. Many people opt for sports drinks, which offer a good combination of carbs and electrolytes, but drinking water is also a good choice. If your urine is clear, then you’re consuming adequate fluids. It’s important to drink fluids even if you are not feeling thirsty, in order to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  5. Post workout, it’s important to replenish the glycogen that was used. Drink healthy fluids and/or grab some fruit.

“For optimal performance, our bodies need carbohydrates, lean sources of protein, and good fluids,” Walls said. “Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet will give you the nutrition you need to be a strong athlete. It will help you give your best performance every time.”

Sarah Walls has over 15 years of coaching and personal training experience. Owner of SAPT Strength & Performance Training, Inc, she offers coaching to develop athletes, adult programs, team training and has an online coaching program. She also has over eight years of experience working as an NCAA D1 strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer. To learn more, visit the site:


In order to get the best performance from our bodies, we have to be properly fueled, which comes from eating and drinking the right things.

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