We are so sedentary in our everyday lives these days that exercise is not an option—it’s an absolute necessity. Our ancestors were on the farm, working in the fields all day long. But now we sit in front of computers and then go home and sit on the couch. Planned fitness activities are needed to counteract this inactive lifestyle.   

How do you fuel your fitness activities? Do you need a special diet? Not likely. How much you eat really depends on your goals. To properly fuel your body for fitness, there are four main things to be aware of.

Hydrate

When you start breathing heavier, you lose water. If you’re sweating, you’re losing even more. Make sure you drink 8 to 16 ounces of fluid (preferably water) before, during, and after exercise. The longer you go, the more fluid you need. If you’re going longer than 45 to 60 minutes of high intensity endurance exercise, drink a sports drink along the way.

Balance

Get a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats at every meal. Don’t just eat all protein or all carbs. All three nutrients are essential for fueling and recovering from activity.

Eat Small, Eat Often

Eat small meals and frequent snacks throughout the day. Your body doesn’t want food all at once, it wants it when the demand is high. Try to meet your body’s demand of energy by supplying it with food when you need it.

Fuel Up Before, Refill After

Eat before and after exercise (and during if it’s longer than 60 minutes). Ideally, it’s best to eat something close to the time you exercise—a few minutes up to an hour before. Nothing fancy—a banana, yogurt, or handful of nuts is great. Have something to eat within 30 minutes, but no longer than one hour after exercise. Ideally, a combo of carbs, protein, and fluid is best. My favorite? Chocolate milk.