Do You Need to Fuel Up During Your Workout?

Posted On Jun 16, 2015 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

Do You Need To Fuel Up During Your Workout?

The guy next to you is squirting down workout gel. Your buddy swears his protein drink during his 30-minute strength training is a MUST. On your last training run for a 5K, everyone else was sporting hydration belts stocked with sports drinks.

Many popular sports supplement and food product brands now have products specifically for during a workout. Do you need these products, or anything for that matter, beyond water?

The simple answer: Probably not. This is where many people go wrong and end up consuming too many calories, thinking they need to stay fueled during a workout with calorie-dense sports products meant for elite athletes or people training for 90 minutes or more. Our bodies are super-efficient machines and can go for long exercise bouts without eating during it. Fueling up during a workout can have a negative effect if you don't need it and lead to stomach cramps, sluggishness, and weight gain.

Follow these guidelines to determine whether or not you need to eat or drink something other than water during your workout:

Scenario #1

If you're exercising for less than 45 minutes or 60 minutes at a moderate pace.

Answer: No. Stick with your normal meals and/or snacks. If you normally workout in the early morning have a few bites of fruit or yogurt so you're not running completely on empty.

Scenario #2

If you're training for a 5K (3.1 mile) run.

Answer: No. Chances are your training runs aren't going to be more than 4-5 miles and your body stores enough glycogen (converted to energy during exercise) to easily get you through those miles. You can skip the sports drinks too unless you're training in extreme heat or humidity and sweating profusely.

Scenario #3

If you're training for a 10K (6.2 mile) run.

Answer: No. See answer to Scenario #2. If you start training for a half-marathon (13.1 miles) then you might want to consider eating something during a run. But only eat if you really need it.

Scenario #4

If you get light-headed, weak, and can't finish your workout on a regular basis.

Answer: Maybe. First, try eating something 30-45 minutes prior to your workout and make sure you're well-hydrated.

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