How to Eat for Daily Exercise

April 27, 2022

Written by: By Monica Bearden, RD, LD, CSSD, Sports Dietitian, Houston Methodist


As we get ready to kick off our transformation Be Someone Challenge in May, we tapped into our nutrition partners to help provide advice so you can see the best results possible during your training over the next six weeks. Here's what Monica Bearden, RD, LD, CSSD, Sports Dietitian with Houston Methodist had to say.

Nutrition is never neutral. The foods and beverages you choose day to day impact your workouts and what you gain from those workouts. Whether your goal is to lose fat, gain strength, gain endurance, and/or improve your health, nutrition and exercise work together. The right nutrition and hydration reduce the risk of injury, provide fuel for energetic and intense workouts, as well as the building blocks needed for recovery and progress towards your goals. Current research shows that eating prior to a workout versus fasting will improve the intensity of the workout. While eating within an hour post-workout is best for building and repairing muscle and replacing muscle glycogen (storage form of carbohydrates/energy). All the meals in between your pre- and post-workout eating will impact fat loss, muscle gains and overall health. A good rule of thumb is to choose whole food first over supplements, as some supplements have ingredients that are not wholesome for overall health.



Daily attention to hydration is a must for everyone, especially when exercising. How you hydrate all day impacts your risk of injury and energy levels. A good practice to gauge hydration status is to notice the color of your urine first thing in the morning. The color should be a light lemonade, if it is darker, closer to the color of apple juice, add another 20 oz. of water to your day


  • Two hours before working out hydrate with at least .6 ounces of water per every 10 pounds of body weight. For example, 150 pound adult would drink at least 9 ounces of water.
  • Post-workout make sure to replace lost fluid through sweat - weight yourself before and after exercise, then drink 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost over the next 4-6 hours.


Day to Day Eating

Research shows eating 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram body weight, eaten in amounts of 20-40 grams per meal along with resistance exercise supports muscle gain in healthy adults. For example, a 150-pound adult would eat 109 grams of protein divided into three meals of 36 grams each.


  • Choose a variety of lean protein sources with a combination of nutritious carbohydrate sources and drink water throughout the day.
  • Protein – Choose at least 3 oz. chicken breast, turkey breast, and fish as well as vegetarian sources such as soy, nuts and seeds, and beans and lentils, and non-fat yogurt and milk (6-8 oz.).
  • Carbohydrates – Choose at least 3-4 servings of whole grain starches, fruits, vegetables, and non-fat yogurt and milk.
  • Snacking is a great way to add nutrition to your day – choose 6-12 nuts or 1-2 tablespoons of seeds and a fruit for a nutrition pick me up


Tip: Chewing is a natural pick me up and energizer.


Pre-workout Eating

  • 2-4 hours prior choose a meal with protein and carbohydrates. No need for energy bars as they usually have high sugar and non-nutritive ingredients. Instead, reach for a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with veggies, fruit and healthy plant-based fats, such avocado, nuts and seeds, with a glass of water.
  • 1 hour before stick with easy to digest carbohydrates, such as an English muffin with honey or jelly, fruit (that does not upset your stomach), such as bananas and raisins, a couple graham cracker sheets, a simple ingredient cereal bar or a cup of non-sweetened cereal, such as Cheerios.
  • Supplement – beet powders open up the blood vessels to allow blood flow containing oxygen and nutrition to the muscles and brain. This is an easy and natural supplement to energize your workouts and support a healthy cardiovascular system. Just add 1 scoop to 4 ounces of water.


Post-workout Recovery

After a 1 – 1.5 hour workout, a balanced meal is great for recovery. Within 1 hour of your workout, eat a meal containing lean protein, whole grains and additional nutritious carbohydrate sources, such as fruits, vegetables and dairy as shown above in the day-to-day eating. During this time, your body is primed and ready to recover and build and having the right building blocks available will help you get the most out of your workout. Also, make sure to drink enough fluid to replace the weight lost during your workout.  


Tip: Cow’s milk is a well-balanced, post-workout drink – it contains whey and casein protein, shown to support muscle building best, contains electrolytes and hydrates. Drink at least 8 ounces of non-fat milk post-workout.



For a customized meal plan and nutrition counseling with Monica Bearden, RD, LD, CSSD, sports dietitian, call 281-737-0466 or email

Virtual and in-person appointments available.




Carbohydrates -Hawley, JA, et al. 1992, Maughan R, et al. 2006, Nicholas CW, et al. 1995, 1999, Foskett A, et al. 2008

Protein – van Vliet, et al. 2018.

Supplements – Clifford, et al. 2015.

IOC consensus on Nutrition for Sport Guidelines

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