Ask The Trainer: Body Fuel

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When to eat; what to eat and why you should; all good things to know before you hit the gym. There’s a lot of advice out there, so it can be a little confusing.

Doug Quinlivan, the owner of Ascent Fitness, said people ask him all the time what they should be doing pre and post workout. He said it’s easy to experiment with because everyone is different and suggests listening to your body. But, here are some quick tips.

First, if you’re hitting the gym for a cardio workout, Doug said doing it before breakfast can be a good idea, in moderation.  “You will access fat stores a little more quickly if you do that,” he said.

But, if you’re lifting, you need a source of fuel for your muscles and the best thing to eat, he said, are complex carbs. “We’re talking some starches, you want to get in vegetables, nuts, seeds.”

Doug’s go-to food is a peanut butter jelly sandwich. “Somewhere between an hour to two hours before your workout because the complex carbs are going to give you that smooth energy curve as opposed to the simple sugars that spike up and down.”

Afterward, you’ll want to refuel with protein to repair the muscle fibers you’re breaking down by lifting. Women should aim for about a fist-sized amount of lean protein, like chicken. You’ll also want to add in some more carbs, like a cup of quinoa or a sweet potato. “The carbs are actually going to spike your insulin production which is gonna help your body more readily absorb the protein,” he said.

Neither is as important after a cardio workout, but Doug said in both cases you’ll want to avoid fats immediately after a gym session.  “The fat has been shown to slow down the absorption of the other stuff.”

Doug also said, “There’s really no time of day when it’s bad to workout.” So, get to it and remember to hydrate.

If you have a question for the trainer, email

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