Adding exercise to your program is a win-win decision. And knowing what to eat before and after a workout is equally as important.

While exercise is not essential if you want to lose weight on the Atkins Diet, it does offer many benefits, including: 


  • Preserves and builds lean body mass
  • Improves mood and helps decrease depression
  • Boosts your energy
  • Helps you maintain your weight loss
  • Helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more
  • Helps you sleep better


So, in other words, adding exercise to your program is a win-win decision. While exercise in itself is good, it helps to learn how the different foods you eat on Atkins affect your exercise performance. And knowing what to eat before and after a workout is equally as important.


Protein: The first thing your body needs for exercise is a fresh supply of amino acids from protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are used by your body for making muscles, hormones, neurotransmitters, bones and all sorts of other important things. Exercise depletes critical amino acids like glutamine and the three branched chain amino acids—valine, isoleucine and leucine. When you eat protein, it replenishes your body's supply of these branched chain amino acids. Think meat, chicken, eggs, fish or whey protein (like in an Atkins Advantage shake). 


Carbohydrates: Exercise draws upon your body's stores of glycogen, which is the storage form of sugar. Glycogen waits in your liver and your muscles for a signal that sugar is needed—kind of like "Hey, she's exercising, let's give her some fuel!" Your body can hold about 1,800 calories of sugar as glycogen, which is plenty to fuel any workout short of a marathon. Your best choices are slow-burning carbohydrates like vegetables and low-glycemic fruits such as berries and nuts/seeds. If you are on later phases of Atkins, you can also use high-fiber whole grains.


What to Eat Before Exercise

Your regularly planned meals and snacks throughout the day should help you stay properly fueled for your workout. Schedule your exercise session so that you have something to eat about an hour before. Good pre-workout snacks include a hard-boiled egg or two (or deviled eggs), a serving of almonds or olives, an Atkins Advantage bar or shake or a ham or turkey roll-up. In later phases, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with some fruit can also help fuel your workout. 


What to Eat After Exercise

Plan on eating within 30 minutes of exercise—this is an important window when your body is primed to replenish nutrients, restore fluids and rebuild muscle. An Atkins Advantage shake is a convenient option, or any low-carb meal that features a combination of protein and carbohydrates, such as a salad with your choice of chicken, fish or meat.

Posted by Linda O'Byrne
Atkins Nutritionist