Ask LH: What Should I Eat And Wear To Get The Most Out Of My Workout?

Ask LH: What Should I Eat And Wear To Get The Most Out Of My Workout?

Dear Lifehacker,

I’ve started a new workout — finally getting off my butt and trying to get healthier — but now I have a few more questions. How should I dress while running (or walking) to get the most out of my workout? Also, what should I be eating before and after I exercise?


Getting Fit

Photo by Iwona Erskine-Kellie.

Dear GF,

Good questions! Your diet is a huge factor in how successful any exercise regimen will be. And, naturally, in addition to eating smart, you’ll want to dress smart too. Here are a few guidelines:

What To Wear

Whether you’re exercising indoors or out, comfort is key. Look for exercise clothes that fit you well and won’t chafe or ride up uncomfortably. The Exercise site at also recommends (perhaps obviously) you wear exercise shoes that support your activity (e.g., running shoes for running) and get picky about your workout socks, avoiding ones that are so thick or thin they’ll lead to blisters.

For exercising in the cold, the Mayo Clinic suggests dressing in layers, with a thin layer of synthetic material like polypropylene (to draw sweat away from your body) beneath a layer of fleece or wool and then a waterproof, breathable outer layer. Adjust for your climate and your exercise intensity (for example, if it’s really cold, wear a hat or headband and gloves). You just don’t want to sweat too much and then get chilly once the sweat starts drying.

If you’re running in the dark, don’t forget to wear reflective clothing.

When And What To Eat

Pre-workout: Some people believe you should workout on an empty stomach to burn more fat, but we’ve seen research recently that debunks that myth. MedicineNet, in fact, specifically recommends eating a small meal or snack before exercising so you can fuel your workout:

Start by making sure that most meals and snacks contain lean protein, complex carbohydrates, fibre, and/or small amounts of fat. This type of meal or snack will help slow down food absorption, help you feel satisfied, and provide fuel to energise your physical activities.

Examples include: a peanut butter and banana wholemeal sandwich, poached egg on toast and fruit on the side or a smoothie made with yoghurt, fresh fruit and orange juice.

How small or big the meal you eat before exercising depends on how much time you have, according to Discovery Health. If you’re going to exercise in 30 minutes, go for a small snack. Avoid a large meal unless you have two hours until your workout.

Post-workout: After your workout, drink plenty of water to rehydrate and within the hour grab a snack with high-quality protein and complex carbs. This will help your body recover and get stronger for the next workout.

All day: Finally, don’t forget to supplement your new healthier lifestyle with better food for the rest of your meals. Michi’s Ladder is a simple substitution plan (“eat this, not that”) you can use to support a weight loss goal: Swap foods from the “dodgy tier”, for example, with foods from the “pious tier”. (Thanks for the tip, TheOtherHalf!)

Whole books have been written about this and detailed meal plans drawn up, but I prefer the “keep it simple” solution or, as Steve Kamb writes on NerdFitness, simplify the heck out of everything.

His training regimen is very similar to our Lifehacker Workout: a Mon/Wed/Fri routine incorporating squats, presses and lunges (and a few more).

When it comes to food:

If you don’t want to count calories, then there’s an even easier option. It’s called the “you’re smart and you know what real food is so stop eating crap” diet — more affectionately referred to as the Paleo Diet. You have a list of things you can eat and a list of things you shouldn’t eat. Load up on the good stuff, cut out the bad stuff. Don’t count calories, eat when you’re hungry and watch your body change.

Good luck and congratulations on your new healthy lifestyle!



P.S. What are your tips for supporting a new exercise program in other areas of your life?


  • Paleo diet and its variations are king! I’ve never felt better in my life: lost a lot of weight, more energy, clear skin, better sleep, better lipid and blood profiles.

    I recommend reading Good Calories Bad Calories or The Primal Blueprint if you’re interested.

  • Also and I know its a slightly personal thing to say but if you find you get chafing when running which everybody does there are some great products that stop that. For myself on a short distance run I just wear tights and a little bit of elastoplast over the nipples but on a long run best stuff I have come across is “body glide” which if you goto any sports store they should have it in stock. well worth keeping as part of your kit.

  • Dr. Karl on JJJ is always referencing a study where they found drinking low-fat milk after a work out helped you people put on muscle better than any protein shakes.

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