Ask Me Anything: Fueling for your Favorite Activities w/ Heather Caplan, RD

Published on ‎08-17-2021 02:21 PM by Guide | Updated on ‎08-19-2021 02:30 PM

Join AthletaWell Nutrition Guide, Heather Caplan RD, for an hour-long session to answer all your sports nutrition questions! Whether your activity is walking, yoga, hiking, climbing, endurance events or {fill in the blank!}, Heather has got you covered with no-nonsense non-diet nutrition support. Ask anything about how to fuel your body for your favorite movement, so we can keep you going strong! 

Thursday August 26th, 12 - 1 PM PT 

Where: In the comments below! 


Ask Heather anything about Nutrition / Fueling for Movement, like: 
- Should I eat before exercise? 
- What should I be eating after movement?

- What are some do's/dont's for sports nutrition?
- How should I be fueling on my rest/recovery days? 
- How do I incorporate intuitive eating with sports nutrition?


How to participate:

Drop your all your comments and Q's in the comments below by 12pm PT / 3pm ET on Thursday Aug 26. Heather will be back on August 26 to reply to all your questions on the thread during this event time!

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Thu, Aug 26, 2021 12:00 PM PDT
Thu, Aug 26, 2021 01:00 PM PDT
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Community Manager

Hi Heather, do you recommend we eat steady amounts / portions / calories 7 days a week? Or do you recommend that you change those amounts based on the amount of exercise / movement you plan on doing? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

Hi Marisa! Great question, because there's so much "advice" around how much to eat on any given day, and it's hard to parse out what's helpful for you. I say this often to clients in general, but especially to athletes (i.e. folx who love sports/activity/regular movement): we're not robots! We're humans. So our needs vary, sometimes widely, day to day. So, no I generally don't recommend eating steady amounts 7 days a week. Instead, I'd love for you to be flexible in meeting your needs--which will change often! I try to help clients avoid directly associating what they "can" eat to how much they exercised. We don't need to earn food; we need fuel/food to just be a human. 🙂 Sometimes you'll need more based on movement/exercise planned or done, and sometimes you'll feel like you need more on rest days! (We can talk about why that might be, if you're curious.) 

I do encourage clients to eat both before and after workouts (every time!), so that may alter your normal eating patterns or just differ from what you'd eat on a non-exercise day.

How does that sound to you? What questions does that bring up? 

Community Manager

A lot of people swear by smoothies and protein powder/shakes. Do you have any recommendations for the best smoothies/shakes pre workout?

Protein smoothies/shakes/supplements can be a great way to get in some fuel and/or a  really convenient pre or post-workout snack! There isn't a "best" one, though. 🙂 I steer clear of brands that push a MLM scheme or have really hyperbolic marketing claims (like, being THE BEST!), hah, but other than that, I want clients to find a shake or powder that 1) they like and 2) meets their needs. Some are vegan, some are allergen-friendly (e.g. soy or dairy-free, or nut-free), there are different flavors, textures, cost profiles, etc. 

Are you a protein shake/smoothie fan? When do you like to fit this into your daily fuel? The "why" for incorporating a smoohie/shake can be helpful in us narrowing down the options for you! I know there are SO many to choose from. 🙂 


What foods should I eat throughout the day to keep me up and energized (wfh, mom, and takes care of the house)?

You've got a lot going on! I feel this. 🙂 There aren't any categories of, or one type of, food that will guarantee an "energized" feeling, but calories are (by scientific definition) energy, so first we want to make sure you're eating enough! I find that almost every client/person I've talked to vastly under estimates their energy (or caloric) needs. This is especially true when that person has a history of dieting, which of course, is often an act of restricting energy intake. So, again, we want to make sure you're eating enough (and often enough), to meet your needs!

Then we can also look at the balance of meals and snacks. A meal or snack that's lower in protein and/or fat may not leave you feeling full/satisfied for very long, so sometimes increasing protein/fat content of meals and snacks will help provide more of that "energized" feeling throughout the day.

A third thing I notice, when someone is feeling low energy in the afternoon/evening, is that they're not eating much in the early hours of the day, but eating more of their energy intake at night. So by mid-afternoon, you're feeling low because energy input is low while the output has probably been pretty high! So even if there is enough calorie intake by the end of the day, it just wasn't spaced out in a way that was helpful for maintaining that energized feeling. (Does that make sense?) 

Do any of the above resonate with you, @kj36928 ?


I’m curious how to approach carbs vs protein before and after working out. Is there a certain window of time where I should be eating these foods?

This is something to experiment with, so you can get to know your preferences and what tends to work best for you, but yes there are general guidelines to fueling before and after exercise, as well as recommendations for windows of time. Here are some general sports nutrition guidelines: 

  • Eat mostly carbohydrates before exercise (especially cardio/aerobic exercise) -- this isn't to say your pre-workout snack can/should ONLY contain carbohydrates, but that it's helpful for carbs to be the main feature. Examples: peanut butter toast, a snack bar, fruit, a smoothie, etc. 
  • Eat carbs and proteins after exercise (you may have heard the 4:1 carb to protein ratio, which can be helpful but certainly doesn't need to be a strict/rigid rule, especially when we're exercising for fun/health, and not as part of a job ;))  — fats often find their way in as part of the carb or protein source, and don't need to be excluded, of course. This may be a protein shake, smoothie, high-protein snack bar, sandwich, etc. 

Timing: generally we recommend eating 30-60 minutes before exercise, but again this can vary widely. I can eat 10-15 minutes before a run or bike ride and feel fine, while others might notice an upset stomach without more time. And then fuel again within 30-45 minutes after exercise. The post-workout fueling is hard for some people because with higher adrenaline levels (from movement) they experienced suppressed appetite. So I often recommend sticking to a window of time for this vs. waiting to feel hungry. 

What have you experienced with, or experienced, with pre- and post-workout fueling, @aquagal49 ? Anything you know definitely doesn't work for you? Anything that does? I love to hear various preferences! 


Hi Heather - sort of a broad question, but I'm curious your thoughts on Noom, the food and exercise tracking app . A lot of people in my life are using it right now (my dad, best friend who is prepping for her wedding, her entire family, the list goes on...), and I'm curious to hear your prospective on if it's a beneficial tool for those who are looking to improve their relationship with food. 

Hi Lauren! To be very candid, I really dislike the way Noom is marketed and the branding they have co-opted from the non-diet community. I haven't explored the app personally, but what I do know about it is that it often prescribes very low caloric intake and restrictive eating habits. If someone is looking for a dieting app, then of course Noom could be considered. My problem with it is that it's a wolf in sheep's clothing, trying to convince the user that it's focused on a healthier relationship to food and weight loss "without dieting" — it is very much a dieting app, nothing more. It also promises "long-term" or "sustainable" weight loss, which actually there is no data suggesting that's possible, and the studies Noom tout often have a <2 year follow up. 

Dieting, as a form of restrictive eating patterns with the goal of weight loss, simply can't also improve our relationship to food. (And that may not be the goal of your family and friends, which is okay!) If someone wants to actually explore their relationship to food (and weight, and health), I would steer them totally clear of apps like Noom. 🙂 

What are your thoughts, @lauren ?


Hi all! I'm excited to be here answering your sports nutrition / fueling questions! I take a non-diet approach to sports nutrition, and have been practicing this way since 2015. I love working with athletes at all levels — recreational to collegiate, elite, etc. Movement can bring and teach us so much, and fueling for movement we love can help us keep on keeping on! My preferred form of movement is running, though I'm doing a lot less of that these days with three very little kiddos (3 and under!). 😉 

I'm going to go through the questions already posted, but feel free to keep adding / replying if here you're joining us live!