IF YOU ARE a regular reader of this column, you know I am your unsolicited food cop. For the most part, I'm steady preaching about how we eat too much of the wrong things.

Well, brace yourself, because this week I'm going to talk about how we're not eating enough. That is, we're not eating enough to fuel our workouts properly.

I know it's tough enough fitting exercise into your busy lifestyle, but believe it or not, about 80 percent of your performance and results are based on nutrition.

That's right.

Pre- and post-workout nutrition is the key to getting optimal results in and out of the gym. The right pre-workout meal boosts exercise performance, while good post-workout eating fuels recovery and growth.

However, eating too much food or the wrong foods can get in your way. Overeating before your workout could result in sluggishness, indigestion, nausea or vomiting. On the flip side, skipping meals, fasting or not eating at least four to six hours before working out can result in other negative consequences such as weakness or fainting.

To avoid this, be sure to keep your blood sugar regulated and your body in homeostasis by eating nutritious meals about every three hours.

Ultimately, your goal should be to have nutritious fuel in your body that has been properly digested about 90 minutes before your workout (eat about two hours before the session). The pre-exercise meal should provide energy while simultaneously preventing hunger during exercise.

For that reason, carbohydrates are king.

Carbs are easily digested, and the right carbs provide the sustainable energy needed to get through a good workout. Proteins and fats take longer to digest and may slow you down.

Pre-workout fuel rules

Skip the pancakes, turkey sausage and whole eggs if you plan an early-morning run. A breakfast like that will leave you dead in the water. All the blood will be in your stomach trying to digest that big meal, instead of supplying your body with energy.

Before a kick-butt early-morning run, opt for a light snack of fruit or fruit juice and water to get you through.

Before your morning cardio/weight-training session, try one of my favorite breakfasts: a bowl of oatmeal with 1/4-cup of blueberries, and a four-egg-white omelet. A meal like that - at only 260 calories! - gives me sustainable energy and ample fuel to get through a vigorous workout.

Half a whole-grain bagel with a tablespoon of raw peanut butter and 1/2-cup of strawberries is another great pre-workout meal.

The bottom line is that you want just enough energy to get you going and through your workout. Small meals like the ones above are the key.

Post-workout fuel rules

Post-workout meals affect your body's recovery and growth. Within an hour to two of working out, refuel your body with a nutritious meal that balances carbohydrates, protein and fats.

For example, you might have a small sweet potato, 3 ounces of chicken and some green beans with a teaspoon of olive oil. Another post-workout meal could be a fruit smoothie protein shake. Good nutrition like this helps repair tissue damaged during exercise.

Remember, the above recommendations are general guidelines. Ultimately, you'll have to experiment and discover for yourself what works best for you.

Keep me posted on your progress, and bon appetit! *

Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1ultimatefitness.com). E-mail her at

kimberly@1on1ultimatefitness.com. Her column appears each Thursday in Yo!