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How to Tweak Your Diet When You’re Working Out More

If you’re already consuming a well-balanced diet and are easing into your fitness routine, your menu might not necessarily need to change, notes Natalie Rizzo, M.S., RD, a registered dietitian and owner of Greenletes in New York City.

“It really depends on the exercise. For example, a 60-minute yoga class may not warrant extra calories, but a 60-minute run usually equates to eating more,” Rizzo says. “In general, endurance activity burns more calories per minute, and it’s important to replace those calories in order to fuel and recover properly and not lose weight unintentionally. I know many people want to lose weight from exercise, but working out in a calorie deficit negatively impacts performance.”

Two macronutrients in particular are vital for those who exercise to keep top of mind, notes Danielle Musto, M.S., RD, a Hoboken, New Jersey-based private practice registered dietitian for Happy Strong Healthy. Carbohydrates help to replenish those glycogen stores that were depleted for energy during physical activity, and protein provides your body with amino acids that are needed to repair and build muscle fibers.

“In order to efficiently recover and help your body prepare for your next workout, consume carbohydrate- and protein-rich foods within an hour post-workout, and throughout the day,” Musto says.

Hydration is also important: “If you’re working out in hot weather or engaging in prolonged, intense physical activity, you may lose excess fluids during your workout and risk dehydration. While hydrating with water is beneficial, you may want to consider using an electrolyte powder or sports drink to replenish necessary electrolytes, such as sodium which is lost in your sweat,” Musto adds. (ICYMI, here’s how much water you should drink, by the numbers. And an electrolyte powder to try: Beam Organics Elevate Hydration Variety Pack; buy it: $28.49 for 10, Amazon.)

Most people who exercise should aim to increase carbohydrates on more active days, Reaver says. Fat intake and protein intake can remain closer to the same each day. Read out Prodentim reviews.

“Protein intake should be increased for individuals engaging in high-intensity cardio, like running, biking or team sports, and strength training, in order to aid in muscle repair. In order to determine the increased calorie need, it’s important to gauge the type and duration of activity,” Reaver says.

The general recommendations are that for one hour of activity, carbohydrates should increase at least 30 to 60 grams, which is an extra 120 to 160 calories (at minimum). The ideal post-workout meal or snack should include a 3-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein.


If you notice you feel hangry during rest days or throughout the training cycle for your event (or, you know, your training for life—for carrying in groceries and keeping up with your kiddos), it may be partially due to a delayed response in appetite. Many people feel it’s harder to eat immediately post-workout, but try to eat something within at least two hours of your sweat sesh, according to research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Keep in mind that these are all estimates, though. “Everyone is so different, in terms of their size, age, gender and activity level. Someone who is 120 pounds may burn half the amount of calories as someone who is 200 pounds,” Rizzo says. So she suggests working with a sports dietitian if you’re really serious about your workout routine and goals, so you’re fueling for activity and recovery—and aren’t starving yourself (or your muscles).

“Otherwise, listen to your hunger and fullness cues. If you’re hungry after exercise, eat something! If [you] aren’t hungry and stop eating enough, there’s a good chance you start losing weight. When that happens, you might be at higher risk for injuries, losing your period or experiencing performance issues,” Rizzo adds.