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By Anne Hogan

If your New Year’s resolution is to improve your health, you’re not alone. In fact, this year, the top two New Year’s resolutions in the US are (1) to exercise more and (2) to eat healthier (Higgins, 2023).

Generally, adults should get a minimum of 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity activity every week, with some muscle-strengthening activities included (USDA, 2020). However, it can be difficult to know what you should be eating to properly fuel your body. For any adult who plans to start an exercise program, it is important to understand the major components of a diet that supports their fitness goals.

Eating for Exercise

Eating to support an active lifestyle can be a challenge, especially when many popular trends and fad diets encourage the elimination of entire food groups or other drastic measures. Rather than resort to an extreme diet, the best approach for most active adults is to exercise regularly and consume adequate nutrients (Ellis, 2021). Major components of a healthy diet include:

  • Carbohydrates – provide energy for the body and the brain during both high-intensity and low-intensity exercise.
  • Fats – function as a long-lasting energy source for the duration of a workout.
  • Protein – supports the maintenance and repair of the body’s tissues after a workout.
  • Vitamins, Minerals, & Electrolytes – help maintain important body functions before, during, and after exercise.
  • Fluids – help maintain optimal physical and mental performance, body temperature, and all other body functions. Fluid replacement before, during, and after exercise is necessary to prevent dehydration.

A balanced, varied diet that does not eliminate food groups or any of the above nutrients is ideal for active adults to fuel exercise and reduce the risk of deficiencies (Thomas et. al, 2016). Your doctor, dietitian, or other trained health professional can assist you with establishing your personal fitness goals and dietary needs.


Each major food group and nutrient plays a significant role in supporting the body before, during, and after physical activity. Whether you already work out or are just getting started, it is important to consume a balanced diet that meets your nutritional needs for long-term health benefits. As always, consult your doctor, dietitian, or other trained health professional prior to making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle.

Anne Hogan is a Graduate Student in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign


Ellis, E. (2021, April 13). Staying away from fad diets. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Eat Right. Retrieved January 6, 2023, from

Higgins, H. (2023, January 4). 2023’s most popular New Year’s resolutions. News10 ABC. Retrieved January 5, 2023, from

Thomas, D.T., Erdman, K.A., & Burke, L.M. (2016). Joint position statement: Nutrition and athletic performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 48(3), 543-568. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000852

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), (2020). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Ed. Retrieved from


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