Many people work 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. They may workout or train for an hour or two during their busy work day, but there is not enough time for long bike rides, long runs, hiking big mountains, or doing anything epic or adventurous. This is what the weekends are for.

So how can the weekend warrior balance their nutrition to not over-fuel on the weekdays, but make sure you have enough fuel for those weekend adventures? It can be easy by following a few of these tips:

Eat whole foods during the week. It can be easy to rely on convenient foods during the workweek, but many convenient foods are loaded with calories and low in nutrients. This can lead to an overconsumption of calories during the week and lead to feeling lethargic for the weekend. It is best to aim for 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables (mostly vegetables), lean protein choices at each meal, and healthy fats from sources such as avocados, olives, fish, and nuts/seeds. Eat more carbohydrates before and after weekday workouts, but don’t overdo the carbohydrates during sedentary activities, such as sitting at work (unless, of course, you have an active job).

Stay hydrated all week long. Staying properly hydrated during the week will lead to proper hydration going into the weekend. That prevents trying to play catch up on Friday night. Although many people drink more alcohol on the weekend, it is wise to stay away from alcohol when planning any long duration activities due to the increased risk of dehydration and cognitive impairment.  

Have a plan for fueling both on weekdays and on the weekend. It is important to meal plan for the workweek to avoid overeating junk food. It is also important to plan ahead for weekend adventures. If someone is planning to hike a 14er on the weekend, a fueling plan is highly recommended. Failing to plan ahead for fuel and water may lead to running out and in some cases that can be dangerous. Estimate how long the hike (or other adventure) may take and bring enough for the hike and extra, just in case. The type of fuel may depend on the activity, but trail mix (nuts and dried fruit), granola, jerky, nut butters, bars, or dried fruit all work great for during activity. Of course, be prepared with fluids and electrolyte drinks or salt tablets as needed.

Fuel before and after weekend adventures. This is crucial for long duration activity and for multiday adventures. Having a quality meal before heading out the door will optimize energy levels and prevent running out of energy later. A good quality breakfast consists of a high-quality protein such as eggs, yogurt, beans, lean meats or nuts/seeds and a carbohydrate such as fruit, oatmeal, whole grain bread, or sweet potatoes. If the adventure involves high-intensity exercise, too much fat can cause stomach issues.

What is consumed after activity can either enhance recovery or detract from it? It might be very tempting to have an alcoholic beverage and a greasy hamburger immediately after exercise, but that is not the best choice for recovery. Make an attempt to prioritize some lean protein, carbohydrate, and water or fluids immediately after exercise. A recovery beverage is also a good idea post activity.  This will help minimize muscle fatigue and soreness. Postpone the beer and hamburger for an hour or two after activity.

Consider natural painkillers to manage pain after weekend adventures. It is possible to wake up on Monday feeling very sore or tired.  Refrain from popping the ibuprofen. There are some natural anti-inflammatory painkillers you can try during or immediately after activity to prevent muscle soreness or to take on Monday morning to mitigate pain and soreness. This includes tart cherry juice, which research suggests might help with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Tart cherry juice works best when consumed before, during, or immediately after exercise. Tart cherry juice can be purchased on a concentrated form and tastes great when added to water or mixed into a post-activity smoothie or recovery drink. Curcumin (the active component of turmeric) is a natural anti-inflammatory supplement that has been shown to decrease pain.

Get enough sleep during the workweek. This is not nutrition related, but just as important. Make sure that you rest and recover adequately during the week so that you can feel great for your next weekend adventure. Going into weekend adventures sleep deprived can lead to injury and illness.