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Fueling For Exercise As A Student

Managing to find time to exercise as a student is an impressive feat. However, what you eat before and after your workout can be just as important as your workout itself!

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As a student, it can feel like you always have a million things on the go at once.

When you're that busy, you may feel like you don't have time to exercise.

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Even though it may seem like you can't fit a workout into your day, doing so can be extremely beneficial! Studies have shown that exercise can help combat stress, which can be very helpful in university when you are trying to balance courses, extracurricular activities and a social life.

However, if you don't fuel properly for exercise, it can leave you feeling like this: / Via

Which definitely isn't ideal when you're trying to study for an exam.

Luckily, there are quick and easy ways to fuel for your workout that will prevent you from feeling exhausted for the rest of the day, and allow you to feel energized and happy instead!

First of all, the timing of what you eat can be just as important as what you eat.

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Eating too much too close to a workout can cause stomach upset, something that isn’t convenient when you’re trying to get a quick 5k in between classes. A good way to prevent this is to eat large meals 3-4 hours before a workout, small meals 2-3 hours before a workout and a small snack if you only have an hour.

What constitutes a good pre-workout snack?

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An ideal pre-workout snack includes mainly carbohydrates, a little protein and a minimal amount of fibre or fat. This is because carbohydrates are easy to digest, whereas fat, protein and fibre take a little longer to digest. This can lead to stomach upset during your workout, which definitely isn't fun. A banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter or half a turkey sandwich are perfect choices before exercise.

Once you're finished your workout, the type of nutrition you need depends on what type of exercise you have just participated in.


If you are doing some light exercise for less than 30 minutes, you may not need a snack if you aren’t hungry. In this case, listen to your body - eat if you are hungry, but if you are not, don't feel like you need to eat something.

If you're a runner:

It is important to eat a high-carbohydrate snack within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. This helps replenish your glycogen stores, which is what your body uses for fuel during a workout. Adding some protein with this snack will also help muscle recovery, so you’ll feel great on your next run! A 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein is generally what works well for this post-run snack. Remember to correlate the size of your snack with the length of your workout and your hunger level. You will need something bigger for longer or faster runs, and something a little lighter is your run is less than an hour. Some good ideas that provide carbs and protein include chocolate milk, trail mix, or yogurt with granola. If you are eating a meal after your workout, try to keep the 4:1 ratio in mind as well - some good post-run meals are pasta with chicken and tomato sauce, meat or bean chili, or a sandwich with meat, cheese and veggies.

If you are strength training:

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After lifting weights, it is important to eat a meal or snack within an hour. Ideally, you want to eat some easy-to-digest carbohydrates along with a good portion of protein. This allows your body to use carbohydrates as fuel instead of breaking down your muscles, and also gives your muscles fuel to grow and get stronger. Weight lifters will want to eat a higher amount of protein compared to carbohydrates than runners - the protein to carbohydrate ratio of your post-work out snack should be 2:1 if you have been strength training. Some good examples would be a chicken breast with some rice, or a cup of Greek yogurt with some fruit.

Some people find that they aren't hungry or even feel a little sick to their stomach after a vigorous workout.

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If this sound like you, prepare your snack ahead of time. That way, it will remind you that you need to eat after your tough workout, and you won't need to do any prep work!

What about hydration - do you really need a sports drink?

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Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, are popular among athletes. The question is – are they really necessary? Unless you are exercising vigorously for over an hour or it’s hot and humid outside, the answer is no. Sports drinks are ideal for replacing electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, that are lost when you sweat. If you are coming back from a long run or an energetic game of soccer, this may be a good choice to consume along with your post-workout snack. However, if you’re just doing a quick gym workout, plain water is a great and inexpensive alternative.

Now that you know all about how to fuel for exercise, here are some healthy, convenient and portable post-workout snack and meal ideas! / Via

After running:

* Whole-wheat toast with 1 Tbsp. of peanut or almond butter

* Smoothie with banana and chocolate milk

* Whole-grain crackers with cheese

* Granola bar with a cup of milk

* Pasta with meat sauce or chicken

* Whole-grain cereal with milk and banana

After strength training:

* Turkey sandwich

* 2 egg scramble with veggies and toast (or make it into a sandwich!)

* Greek yogurt with fruit and granola

* Tofu stir fry with brown rice and veggies

* Grilled chicken in a tortilla with salsa and black beans

* Grilled salmon with oven baked sweet potato fries

So just remember these tips for your next workout and you'll leave feeling like a champ!

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This information has been provided through the Wellness Education Centre. We are a student-driven safe space where all University of Guelph students can seek information and support about topics related to health and well-being. Peer-to-peer education is the driving force behind all of WEC's initiatives; including drop-in peer consultations, interactive programming, and resource distribution.

For more information contact The Wellness Education Centre.




Instagram: @wellness_uofg

Contact: The Wellness Education Centre

Company Name: The University of Guelph

Telephone Number: 519-824-4120 ext. 53327

Email Address:


Brissette, C. (2014, November 4). When do you really need a sports drink? The Globe and Mail.

Dikos, J. (2008, September 14). Post-Workout Nutrition. Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic. (2014, February 21). Eating and exercise: 5 tips to maximize your workouts. Retrieved from

NCAA. (2013, August 6). Fueling for Performance: How proper timing of meals affects both sport and academic performance. Retrieved from

Salmon, P. (2001). Effects of physical exercise on anxiety, depression, and sensitivity to stress: A unifying theory. Clinical Psychology Review, 21(1), 33-61. Retrieved from

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