Fueling for Pilates


Hi!  Before we get into how to fuel properly for Pilates, allow me to introduce myself!  I'm Cayla Jablonski, a private practice registered dietitian nutritionist here in Richmond, VA.  My take on nutrition is all about sustainability. To understand what I mean, ask yourself: “does how I eat affect my social life, my health, and/or cause me to fear foods?”  If so, it’s not a sustainable diet! Sustainability in nutrition also means eating in a way that helps the Earth through shopping small, using less plastic, and creating less food waste. My end goal for my clients is for them to have a healthy relationship with food, make Earth friendly choices, and to be able to enjoy ALL the foods - while still reaching their health goals!  


I fell in love with Pilates when I realized how well it fit with my views on nutrition: it’s an incredibly sustainable workout.  Not only does it strengthen and tone my body, it is something I can do forever thanks to the fact that it doesn’t pound on my knees or put stress on my back. The energy in Pilates is a perfect blend of focus and hard work, which makes it a workout I can’t get enough of. It is definitely something I see myself doing well into my 90s! (Can you tell I’m a positive thinker?)


So what should you eat before Pilates? Eating properly for a workout can make or break your exercise session. Without proper nutrition, you may not get the results you desire and your performance may be lacking.  Ever been in the middle of cardio and get one of those awful side cramps, or become light-headed/unable to focus in a group class? It probably has something to do with what you ate beforehand (or what you didn’t eat!) Just as there are different types of exercises designed to work different muscle groups, there are different ways to properly fuel your body before and after each type of exercise. 

Before Class

Since Pilates is an exercise that focuses on precision, you don’t have to worry about having enough fuel reserves like you would for a long run.  It is an anaerobic sport, so the main fuel burned is fats, followed by carbohydrates. So eating a light snack that is made up of fats & carbs about an hour before class, or a normal size meal within 3 hours of the class, will allow you to work at your full potential.  Eating will also prevent dizzy spells and the inability to focus because you are hungry, but keeping it light will help you avoid feeling so full that you want to barf while doing a pike on the reformer (yikes!) So what does a light snack look like?

  • Cottage cheese + fresh fruit

  • Small apple or banana + tbsp. of peanut butter

  • String cheese + 6 whole grain crackers 

  • A hand full of nuts + dried fruit

  • Carrot sticks + hummus

After Class

Now that you’ve done more squats than you can count and held a few planks for what feels like forever, it is time to refuel!  This is where I see the biggest blunders. People take on the mentality of “I worked out, so I can eat whatever I want!” and immediately crush a large order of French fries. (Let me be clear - there’s nothing wrong with french fries, but they aren’t going to give you the nutrients you need to recover!) Another blunder is when folks reach for something that sounds healthy, but doesn’t match the workout they just did. One example is the ever trendy juices.  While some cold pressed juices are great choices, most are high in sugar and all of them have taken out the fiber, causing you to be hungrier sooner, which leads to overeating. Choose healthful complex carbs + protein over simple sugars to help replace your energy stores and allow the muscles to recover without cancelling out the hard work you just put in. If you are not able to sit down to have a full meal, another snack will do.

After workout snack ideas:

  • Plain Greek yogurt + 1 tbsp. nut butter + fresh fruit

  • Simple smoothie  (2 cups spinach +1 tbsp. nut butter + ½ small banana + nut milk + 1 tbsp. chocolate or vanilla plant protein)

  • Sweet potato toast + peanut butter + 1/4th banana + cinnamon

  • Hardboiled egg + 1 slice of toast

  • 1 cup edamame

Another note: regardless of whether it’s before, during, or after class, you need to hydrate!  Sticking to good ol’ water will do. Aim to get 84-96oz a day, more if your class is outside in the heat or in a heated studio.

Now that you know how to fuel for your Pilates session, I hope I’ll see you around the Studio soon!

Cayla Jablonski is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist working with individuals here at Niche Pilates Studio on nutrition matters related to preventative care, weight maintenance, GI issues, sports nutrition, diabetes/prediabetes, and food sensitivities. Visit her website or follow her on instagram @nutritionpreferred for more information and helpful tips!