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Fuel to Perform, Both Physically and Mentally

How you fuel your body can make a big difference whether it’s for work, school, or play. With a well-balanced diet, you could be giving your performance and recovery a boost, both physically and mentally.


Start Your Day Off Right

If you can, start your morning off right with a well-balanced breakfast that includes protein, whole grains, and a whole fruit of your choosing. Breakfast within one hour of waking up can help jump-start your metabolism. If you are rushed in the mornings, try pre-making a breakfast you can enjoy on the go, such as a whole-grain peanut butter breakfast bar or you could even pre-make and freeze homemade breakfast burritos that are packed with vegetables and protein to help keep you full until your next meal. Pair either of these with a banana, which is an economical and easy fruit to enjoy on the go! Keep a variety of healthful breakfast items on hand so you don’t leave the house empty-handed. Studies have also shown that if you consume a well-balanced breakfast, it can help curve your snack cravings later in the day and promotes healthy weight management.



If you can, pack a nutrient-dense lunch that will help you stay full and fueled until dinner. It might be easy to turn to fast food or a quick trip to a convenience store for lunch but typically these choices are filled with sodium, solid fat, and added sugars and lacking in healthful nutrients. Rarely do these fast-food trips include whole grains, fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy, or lean protein which provides the nutrients your body needs to produce energy. Instead, try packing your own lunch from home. You don’t have to create a special meal every day either, try utilizing leftovers, add a fruit or vegetable on the side and you’re off to a good start!



Dinner, the meal that can help slow down your busy day if done right. The perfect scenario is that you’d have dinner planned out ahead of time, so you already have all the ingredients that you need to make a healthy meal when you get home. In case this doesn’t happen, it’s always good to have some healthy go-to meals at the ready. This could be frozen lean meatballs, whole grain spaghetti, and frozen or canned fruit and vegetables for something quick yet healthy to put together. A well-balanced dinner can help decrease snack cravings and sustain satiety throughout the night, so pick nutrient-dense foods to fill your plate with.



Snacks are a great way to fit in the extra serving of vegetables or fruits throughout the day that you may have missed. Try preparing fruit and vegetables to snack on ahead of time so you don’t turn to the chips that are conveniently ready to eat in the cupboard. Containers of cut fruit and sliced vegetables with dip are great snacks! A few healthy dip options include hummus, and peanut butter vanilla yogurt dip (1:1 ratio). If you’re hungry around 10:30 am grab some fresh baby carrots to snack on, or pre-make a fruit parfait if you know you’re always in need of a snack after lunch. When we get to the point that we’re ravenous and finally get the chance to eat, we tend to overeat, so packing healthy snacks can help prevent overeating during your bigger meals as well.


Don’t Forget to Hydrate

Even in a 1% dehydrated state, it can dramatically affect performance. Fluid needs will vary depending on the environment, physical activity level, age, sex, and others, so a one size fits all water recommendation doesn’t work.  The easiest way to tell if you’re properly hydrating is the color of your urine. If your urine is pale yellow this indicates proper hydration, whereas if it’s dark yellow this indicates your fluid intake is inadequate. For activities lasting less than one hour or low-intensity activities, water is a great, economical option. For longer activities, sports drinks can be helpful in maintaining proper hydration and fueling to perform, such as athletic tournaments, or while out hiking.


Whether it’s the state championships or a big project at work, a day filled with well-balanced meals and snacks may give you the energy and nutrients your body needs to finish the day off strong.


Written by University of Wyoming Extension- Cent$ible Nutrition Program Educator Shelley Balls, MDA, RD, LD



  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, AND
  • Kelly K, McGuinness O, Buchowski M et al. Eating breakfast and avoiding late-evening snacking sustains lipid oxidation. PLoS Biol. 2020;18(2):e3000622. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3000622
  • Leidy H, Ortinau L, Douglas S, Hoertel H. Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, “breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(4):677-688. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.053116
variety of healthful foods

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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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