Guest Blogger – Jenna Stock, RDN on Exercise and Nutrition

vegetable exercise woman

Today I have a guest blogger who is an amazing Dietitian. She recently ran a half marathon (so she’s in the training mode) and she is going to share with you all you need to know about exercise and nutrition. It’s a lot of information but she breaks it down so well that after you are done reading you will be an expert too!


As a Registered Dietitian, I find that exercise and eating is one of the most challenging and confusing topics to counsel clients on. It also happens to be the one topic that is most often blogged about and also the one many people have quite a few opinions on as well, which leads to the challenge and confusion.

What is most important first and foremost to understand is, no body is created equal, different strokes for different folks, there is no one size fits all, I could keep going but I think you get the point. That being said, there is science behind optimal athletic performance and there are recommendations for how and what to eat when training for specific fitness events and for trying to reach specific goals. Using these pillars and making them your own is what will lead to your own personal success.

My goal for this post is to simplify the science of eating for optimal athletic performance, and to also discuss some basics for building meals around these recommendations. We all know now that, “abs are made in the kitchen” so lets learn the basics of how to get them.

What foods provide energy?

Energy comes from food, and energy is measured in calories. The nutrients that provide us with calories therefore also provide us with energy. These nutrients are called macronutrients. Macronutrients are: protein, fat and carbohydrates.

Micronutrients on the other hand, such as vitamins and minerals are great for our bodies but do not provide calories.

For optimal performance calories should be consumed from a variety of sources.

What do they do?

Carbohydrates are easily digested and quickly utilized by your body. Carbohydrates help to prevent early fatigue and injury during exercise, and are stored in our muscles as glycogen.

Protein helps build and repair our muscles and helps aid in fluid balance. Protein serves as a minor fuel source for endurance athletes, and when adequate carbohydrates are consumed it limits the body’s use of protein as fuel. An important thing to note is that most people consume adequate amounts of protein each day in their normal diets, despite protein being something most people feel they do not consume enough of and tend to supplement.

Last but not least, fats. Fat is used as an energy source when carbohydrate stores run low, typically after prolonged exercise. When it comes to fat intake, most of us can reach our recommended daily intake from our regular diets following dietary guidelines.

Although vitamins and minerals do not provide us with energy, when it comes to exercise and performance they are needed for a few key things. Sodium and potassium help us with body fluid and electrolyte balance, calcium aids in bone health, and zinc, iron and B12 play roles in muscle function and recovery. Antioxidants can also help prevent muscle soreness and help fight inflammation. When exercising it is so important to eat a variety of foods including fruits and veggies to be sure to get these important vitamins and minerals daily.


When to Eat and What to Eat:

The general nutrition recommendations state that pre-competition or pre-exercise, we need a nice blend of carbohydrates, to top off our muscle stores, and a small amount of protein to build and repair the muscle tissue. In addition to this we want to be sure this meal is low in fat and fiber to ensure easiest digestion. This meal should be eaten about 3 hours pre-activity.


• Smoothie
• Blend of almond or low fat milk (4 oz.) with plain Greek yogurt for protein (3-4oz). ½ to 1 cup of frozen fruit. Optional: add up to 1 tbsp of peanut or almond butter or ¼ cup plain rolled oats (uncooked), or both.
• Egg White Scramble with veggies of your choice
• Paired with a slice of whole wheat toast
• Or option to have a hard-boiled egg and slice of toast or ½ cup of dry cereal.
• Fruit and Nut Butter
• Apple or Banana and 1 tbsp of a nut butter of your choice (almond, peanut, cashew etc.)
• 1 slice of wheat toast with 1 tbsp of nut butter and sliced banana or apple on top
• Homemade Trail Mix
• ¼ cup dry cereal, 2 tbsp nuts, 2 tbsp seeds (pumpkin or sunflower), 1 tbsp dried fruit

After exercise the most important thing to remember is to restore the body with the fluid and electrolytes lost. In addition to this you want to replenish the carbohydrate, which was the muscle fuel you used up and you will also need to provide your body with protein to repair your damaged muscle tissue and simultaneously stimulate the growth of new tissue. This replenishment should take place within 15-60 minutes following the exercise.

Post workout replenishment can be accomplished in the form of a snack, or if you are planning to have a regular meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) within an hour of the completion of your workout, there is no need to have an additional snack. Be sure though, to make your meal balanced and to contain the necessities listed above.

When it comes to weight loss goals with exercising, it is really important to remember and consider calorie balance. An additional snack following your workout if your next meal is in fact within that sixty-minute window will add additional calories. Five hundred additional calories per day over the course of a week can add a pound of weight gained by the end of the week. So plan your meals and exercises wisely.

A common mistake many make when exercising is calorie burn over-estimation. After a good run or a really hard class, remember you definitely burned a ton of calories, but we want to try and avoid, eating back all the calories we burned, which may be easier to do than we think.


Pulling it all Together:

So how can we replenish, maintain muscle strength and reach our goals? Now do you agree that this can be confusing??

The key here is balance. It is important to keep an eye on your portions and it is important to remember not only to eat but also to eat at the right times.

When building healthy meals, divide your plate simply into three categories. And hey, if you happen to have an extra princess or action hero kids plate laying around use it, they do this for you! (They also keep you honest and are more fun to eat off of!)

Half of your plate should be vegetables. Strive to have three or more colors with each meal to ensure you are getting a variety of different nutrients, textures and flavors.

On the other half of your plate – one quarter of the plate should be a whole grain and the other quarter should contain your lean protein.

Your serving size of your grain of choice should measure ½ cup cooked. Break out your measuring cups here and be sure you are serving yourself the proper amount. For added nutritional benefits try out some of the power grains. My personal favorites? Wheat berries (Bulgur), Farro and Freekeh. These grains pack additional protein and fiber per serving, leaving you feeling fuller and more satisfied post meal. Never heard of them? Or heard of them but never tried? Pick a grain of the week and challenge yourself to try a new one each week. The nutritional benefits of these grains make it worth the try!

For your proteins – vary up your sources of protein. Just like the grains, try new things! Switch between chicken, fish, turkey, beans, tofu, nuts, seeds, eggs etc. Don’t let yourself get bored. In general your serving of protein will be the size of your palm, about 4 ounces per meal.

If you don’t do so already, be sure to measure out your oils. When it comes to cooking, pouring oil on a pan, “Rachel Ray” style, to sauté your vegetables can tack on an additional 200-300 calories depending on how heavy your hand is. On average, 1 Tbsp of oil is about 140 calories and these are calories we simply don’t even see or need. These calories add up fast. Try to limit your oil to 1 Tbsp per meal. If you are concerned about cooking with less oil, try other options. Juice from lemons and limes helps keep veggies moist on the pans, or unsalted veggie or chicken broth will work great and even add extra flavor. Water and vinegar will also do the trick for none to minimal additional calories.

The moral of the story is simple. Exercise and nutrition are the keys to health and don’t need to be as complicated as we tend to make them. Your body is capable of pretty amazing things and needs to be fueled properly. Using the tips discussed in this post, be prepared, plan ahead and feed your body with the right things at the right time and you will see the results you are looking for. Remember the science and turn it into your own routine. Make sure to always enjoy your exercise and what you are eating, because in the end happiness is the true key to all success.

– Jenna A. Stock, RDN


About the Author:

Jenna Stock is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a passion for health and wellness. Jenna is a nutrition blogger for: Head to Toe Wellness, ( where you can find her monthly nutrition posts covering a wide variety of topics. Jenna has researched, designed, and administered nutrition plans to aid in disease recovery, weight loss, as well as for competitive athletes. Jenna is passionate about the nutrition and dietetics field and committed to living a healthy lifestyle herself. To be successful, she believes a healthy diet must also be fun and enjoyable and brings her energy for life and happiness to every aspect of her nutritional perspective.
Jenna can be contacted at, and look for her healthy meal ideas on Insta-gram using #happyslimhealthy.


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