Want to know how to best fuel your workout? Ditch the calorie myth

Nutrition Focus with Adriana Rotella

When it comes to working out in order to lose weight, optimize health and increase energy, many people still believe the century old philosophy that they’ll drop the pounds if they burn more calories than they consume.

But when put into practice, the results just don’t seem to come – no matter how hard and frequent the workouts!

Exercising more and eating fewer calories almost never works long term. When we follow the “calories in/calories out” approach, we’re often left with too few calories to support a good workout. End result? We find ourselves with workout burnout (or end up raiding the fridge with ravenous hunger afterward!).

The best solution…stick to the basics.

Aim for balanced meals and snacks which include some protein, fat, and fibre every time. You want enough energy to fuel your workout but may not want to eat a full meal which can leave you feeling sluggish and tired.

The calorie equation has been well challenged and we’re seeing more evidence that not all calories are considered equal. 1,000 calories from a high sugar drink are metabolized in the body very differently than 1,000 calories from a vegetable such as broccoli.

When you consume energy drinks, high sugar energy bars or even flavoured sugar laden lattes, the non-fibre sugars are quickly absorbed by the body providing a very quick but not long-lasting fuel.

Glucose spikes your blood sugar, which stimulates insulin and signals your body to store body fat, not use it.

On the flip side, if you were to consume 1,000 calories from broccoli – a high fibre option that barely registers an effect on your blood sugar – the same biochemical reactions would not be triggered.

Focus on nourishing your body by eating real food, avoid processed and packaged foods, and focus on your health rather than your weight. Include beneficial fats and plenty of vegetables. Fruits & vegetables don’t come with nutritional labels, so when you move towards consuming more plant foods you naturally stop counting calories and include the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, that are essential to our health and wellbeing… and help us to feel satisfied pre and post workout.

Some balanced pre workout snack ideas…

  • Chia seed pudding with berries, banana, cinnamon (great blood sugar stabilizer) and almond or coconut milk.
  • Carrots, celery, peppers, or cucumbers with hummus.
  • Handful of homemade gluten free muesli (or store-bought granola but read the labels & look for the least amount of sugar!) with nuts and seeds.
  • Green smoothie made from spinach, frozen banana, blueberries and coconut water or coconut milk (can add some protein powder for longer satiety).
  • Nut butter, banana, spinach and almond, rice, or coconut milk smoothie.
  • Lemon energy balls (see recipe below).

Lemon Energy Balls

15 Min | Makes 10-12 Balls Freezer-Friendly


  • cup raw cashew nuts
  • 3 dried figs, finely chopped
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut + extra to coat
  • pinch of salt
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Process until well combined and sticky (you may need to scrape down the mixture inside the processor).
  2. Roll into balls, coat in desiccated coconut and refrigerate to set. Lemon and honey are a traditional healing combination used most often during the cold and flu season to help boost the immune system. This snack provides many immuneboosting nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin K. Both honey and coconut oil have antibacterial properties, making this snack super-special for your immune system as a great pre workout energy boost!

**Recipe courtesy of Dr. Libby Weaver