Fuel Your Workout the Right Way!

by Rachel Stuck, RDN

The Ixcela program offers personalized fitness and nutrition recommendations based on your goals and experience working out. Regardless of how strenuous your workout plan is, it is important to fuel your workouts in a way that supports both your gut health and your fitness goals.

Whether you are doing the Ixcela in-home workouts or the advanced Ixcela fitness program, including the proper nutrients in your diet will ensure effective fueling and recovery. The video and recipes featured below will provide insight and ideas about how to fuel your workout and create a post-workout smoothie that fits your meal plan and your preferences.

Before diving into the smoothie recipes and nutrition tips, it is important to remember that everybody is extremely different in their needs and preferences. What works for me might not work for you, and that is OK! If you have questions about your nutrition plan, add them to the Facebook Live video on the Ixcela Facebook page. We would love to hear from you!

When are additional calories, protein, and carbs necessary?

Including a pre- or post-workout snack might be a good idea, but it’s not a necessity for most people. Protein bars, shakes, and electrolyte drinks have a place in an athlete’s diet, but it should be noted that these are often sources of added sugar, artificial ingredients, and unnecessary calories. The 3 questions below will help you decide if you need additional nutrients before or after your workout.

1. When was the last time you ate?

If you’ve eaten within 1–2 hours of your workout and you are not hungry, you can probably skip a pre-workout snack. This is especially true if your workout is going to be less than an hour of light to moderate exercise instead of a strenuous workout.

2. How long and strenuous is your workout?

If you are hungry and planning to exercise for longer than an hour, consider including easy-to-digest carbohydrates from cereal, crackers, fruit, or a nut-free nutrition bar 30 minutes to an hour before the workout. Protein should also be included if you are feeling very hungry and you’re not on track to reach your protein goal for the day. Simple carbohydrates and protein will help fuel your workout, promote muscle growth, and tide you over until your next meal.

3. How soon will you be able to eat after exercise?

Finally, if you are confident that you will be able to eat a well-rounded meal (including protein, carbs, and healthy fat) after your workout, you can probably skip a post-workout snack. Again, if your workout is going to be light to moderate and last less than an hour, stick to this recommendation. If your exercise will be strenuous and last longer than an hour, consider having a post-workout snack that includes easy-to-digest carbs and protein to help you refuel and build lean muscle mass post-workout. Check out the antioxidant smoothie and simple protein shake recipes linked below.

Which macronutrients are important for exercise?

Carbohydrates and protein are the key macronutrients needed before and after exercise. Healthy fat is also important but takes longer to digest, so the calories (or energy) will not be available if eaten within 4 hours of exercise. Protein supports the growth of lean muscle mass and carbs act as the initial fuel during exercise.

How do I know how much protein and carbohydrates I should eat?

Your protein, fat, and carbohydrate needs depend on your height, weight, and physical fitness level. Ixcela not only recommends foods to support the health of your gut, but also calculates your calorie and macronutrient needs based on your body composition goals. Knowing how many calories and grams of protein, fat, and carbs your body needs will help you better understand how to include pre- and post-workout snacks without going overboard on your favorite cookie dough protein bar. See the sample Ixcela Nutrition Plan below:

What should I look for when choosing a protein powder?

First, consider your preference. If you are OK with consuming animal products, consider selecting a whey protein powder. If you prefer a plant-based protein powder, choose one that has a blend of several types of protein to ensure it contains all the needed amino acids. Then, check the nutrition label for protein, carbs, and fat content. Ideally, you want a low-carb, low-fat protein powder. This allows you to add calories with fruit and nut butter as desired. Finally, look for one that is naturally sweetened with stevia or monk fruit instead of artificial sweeteners (sucralose, saccharines, aspartame, or sugar alcohols). Artificial sweeteners can damage the gut microbiome if consumed in excess. Consider getting an unflavored protein powder and adding your own flavor with fruit, nut butter, cocoa powder, cinnamon, or ginger.

Post-Workout Smoothies

The best thing about smoothies and shakes is that they can be easily changed to fit your dietary needs and preferences. The recipes in the video are delicious and nutritious as-is, but are also good bases for additional ingredients like nut butter, protein powder, Greek yogurt (we highly recommend Pillars Yogurt), oats, flax seeds, chia seeds, coconut flakes, and anything else that fits your fancy.

The first smoothie recipe showcased in the video is the antioxidant smoothie. This recipe is not only dense in disease-preventative antioxidants, but it is also a good source of fiber thanks to the berries and ground flax seeds. To make the antioxidant smoothie, add all ingredients from the list below to a high-powered blender and blend until smooth. If you notice that the contents are not blending smoothly, consider adding a splash of milk to help get things moving.

Antioxidant Smoothie Ingredients:

  • 2 cups baby kale or spinach
  • 1/2 cup frozen berries
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups milk of choice or water

**unsweetened almond milk used to calculate nutrition information

The second recipe in the video is as simple as it gets. A detail that is not noted in the video is that the protein powder used in the recipe is lightly sweetened vanilla protein powder. This helps sweeten up the shake and hide the spinach. This recipe is best used post-workout when you are trying to limit your carb intake.

Shakes and smoothies are also great additions to meals and can be good snacks. With an endless variety of substitutions and additions, it is easy to find a combination that tastes great and fits your nutrition plan. Below you will find a list of gut-healthy additions to consider adding to your favorite smoothie recipe.

Have a favorite smoothie addition? Follow the link to our Facebook Live video and drop it in the comments section! Find the full video from our @ixcelawellness Facebook page here.

Unlock your gut potential!

How do you know what to cook for dinner if you want to improve your gastrointestinal fitness? How about your immuno fitness?

Did you know Ixcela customers receive access to our library of over 200 gut-healthy recipes? The easy-to-use filters allow you to find dishes to support your personal gut health and align with your dietary preferences. The Ixcela recipe library has something for every chef’s skill level and features ingredients that are readily available at most grocery stores.

Ready to start improving your gut health? Purchase Ixcela today for access to the Ixcela recipe, mindfulness, and fitness libraries, to help you implement your Ixcela personalized nutrition, supplement, mindfulness, and fitness recommendations.

About the Author

Photo: Rachel Stuck, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Rachel Stuck has a background in culinary arts and nutrition counseling. Rachel takes a positive approach to nutrition: she avoids recommending restrictive diets and instead focuses on helping people choose foods that promote health and well-being. She is passionate about empowering and assisting Ixcela members as they develop their unique, gut-healthy lifestyles.

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Interested in learning more about Ixcela? Check out Ixcela’s microbiome test, personalized nutrition and fitness plans, and other tools to help you optimize your health.