Nutrition and Exercise- Why Your Food Matters

Author: Jess Parker, a run+lifting coach teaching runners to lift and run with confidence and clarity.

What we eat -- and therefore, the nutrition we consume -- absolutely affects how we feel, overall, and more specifically has direct impacts on exercise performance. For example, with too little food, energy required for working out will be lacking. But also, large or heavy meals can make us feel sluggish.

As a coach of both strength and endurance athletes, I see how intertwined both nutrition and exercise are on a daily basis. The importance of adequate carbohydrates, protein, good fats, and a focus on balanced and good nutrition, in general, can’t be stressed enough.

Good Nutrition

“Good nutrition.” What does it even mean? Sometimes, when defining something, it can be helpful to clarify what something is not. For example, good nutrition is not a fad diet, food restriction, or constantly labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

In practice, consuming good nutrition allows you to eat what you want, in moderation. It’s about learning to look at and understand the nutritional density of the food you consume.

It also means prioritizing whole foods, like fruits, and veggies, whole grains, and lean and plant-based proteins in your daily diet, but still sometimes eating that cookie -- simply because it’s delicious!. Good nutrition means recognizing that your ‘engines’ -- physical, mental, energetic -- run better when you fuel them with nutrient- rich and nutrient-dense foods, and that you tend to feel less energetic and perform not as well when you eat foods with less nutrition.


One helpful framework for thinking about nutrition holistically is through the lens of what are called macronutrients. The three primary categories of macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein, and fats -- all of which contain calories. Carbohydrates are the most readily-available form of fuel for your body. A few nutritious sources of carbohydrates are: fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole grain pasta. If carbohydrates are readily-available fuel, think of protein as containing the building blocks your body needs to remain strong and build additional strength over time. For example, protein is necessary for building and repairing muscle fibers broken down in daily-life activities, and especially, during physical exercise. Finally, there are multiple kinds of fats, but for our purposes here, good fats lubricate joints and contribute to healthy brain function.

We all need calories from the right balance of these macronutrients, for our unique bodies, activity-levels, and lifestyles. (Please talk with a registered dietician or holistic health practitioner for help optimizing things like your individual calorie/nutrient needs!)

In summary, the foods you choose to fuel your body with can make or break your energy levels every day, as well as your exercise performance. Eating a well- balanced diet that fuels your body with nutrients from healthy, diverse sources is the best way to ensure you are living your best life.

You can get adequate carbohydrates, protein, and good fats into your diet in many ways, but one way I make that happen -- using Take Two Barleymilk -- is through a post-workout smoothie. Smoothies are a great on-the-go way of feeding our bodies a combination of macronutrients after a cardio workout or lifting session. It’s also a way to sneak in some veggies without tasting them!

Here’s a go- to recipe I love that keeps me energized long after a great workout:


  • 8 oz. Take Two Barleymilk, of choice (my favorite is the Chef’s Blend or Chocolate)
  • 1 scoop protein powder, of choice
  • ½ banana (or a whole one for extra creaminess)
  • 2 handfuls fresh spinach (or greens of choice)
  • ¾ - 1 cup frozen berries (or fruit of choice)


  • Add ingredients to blender and blend until smooth
  • If you’re a chocolate-lover, use a plant-based chocolate protein powder and add a tablespoon of pure, unsweetened cocoa powder.

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