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Whether you’re a hardcore fitness pro or you’re just starting to add exercise to your daily routine, learning how to eat for performance is important. Your body needs proper nutrition—carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins—so that it can convert food into energy you can use when exercising.

Serious athletes tend to have more carbohydrates in their diet because they’re easily broken down and used as energy in the form of glucose. Your body will use this glucose during extended moderate- to high-intensity exercise. The benefits of proper fueling, especially for athletes, include:

1. Improved performance

2. Enhanced recovery

3. Prevention of injuries due to fatigue

Different types of physical activity require different nutrition. Athletes who compete in endurance sports (swimming, running, bicycling) require more calories than athletes who deliberately keep their weight lower for competition (wrestlers, gymnasts, jockeys). Regardless of what you do, it’s important to fuel your body to help you perform at your best. These tips from the Human Performance Resource Center will help you fuel your work out:

Before working out (3-4 hours)

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat 200-300 grams of healthy carbohydrates such as whole grain cereals with low-fat or skim milk, a slice of whole wheat toast, or a piece of fruit
  • Avoid saturated fats and protein before a workout—they break down slower than carbohydrates and might leave you feeling sluggish

During a workout:

  • Stay hydrated by taking small but frequent sips of water
  • Refuel with 50-100 calories of carbohydrates, such as a small banana, if working out for more than an hour

After your workout:

  • Rehydrate with plenty of fluids
  • Replenish with carbohydrates and protein within 30-60 minutes after your workout to restore muscle glycogen levels and aid recovery with snacks like whole-grain bread with peanut butter or low-fat yogurt with fruit

You can also get more information and resources from the Navy Operational Fitness & Fueling System (NOFFS) website.