Fuel Your Fitness: Nutrition & Hydration Tips for Exercise
Nutrition and exercise go hand-in-hand when it comes to health. That’s why Good Measure Meals has been teaming up with the Atlanta Track Club to support our mutual goals of promoting health and fitness within the Atlanta community.
Recently, GMM Registered Dietitian Alissa Palladino talked to a group of Atlanta Track Club members training for the Peachtree Road Race about fueling and hydrating strategies to optimize their training.
You don’t have to be a runner to benefit from proper sports nutrition. The best form of exercise is the one you enjoy and do consistently. So whether you’re a cyclist, cross-fitter, Zumba-lover or weight-room regular, read on- these tips are for you.
No matter what your fitness goals, nutrition plays an important role in helping you reach them. Properly fueling your body for exercise increases the success of your workouts, allowing you to train harder and longer. Getting the right nutrients at the right times is key to how you feel, perform and recover. Here are some tips for what to eat before and after exercise to get more out of your workouts and reach your fitness goals.
If it’s been more than a few hours since your last meal, or you’re exercising first thing in the morning, eating a pre-workout snack will help you feel and perform your best. The less time you have before your workout, the more you want to stick to quick-digesting carbs for fast, easy energy. Keep protein moderate, and limit fat and fiber to prevent GI distress. Why carbs? They’re your body’s preferred energy source, especially when exercising at higher intensities and for a longer duration. Consuming carbs pre-workout provides energy, delays fatigue, improves endurance, prevents the breakdown of lean tissue for fuel, keeps blood sugar steady, and fuels the anaerobic energy pathway your body relies on during high intensity exercise. Even when you’re not going all out, carbs allow your body utilize fat for energy more efficiently. Spare those muscles and boost your performance by consuming a carb-rich snack about an hour before your run.
Here are some ideas:
• a piece of fresh fruit, dried fruit like raisins or cranberries
• a slice of toast or English muffin
• a handful of dried cereal, oatmeal, a granola bar
• Graham crackers or pretzels
• Sports drink or 100% juice
Pre-exercise fueling is very individual. If you’re used to working out on an empty stomach, start small. Try a few bites of a banana, or limit volume by choosing dried fruit over fresh. If you can’t stomach solid food, a few sips of sports drink or juice might be a good option. If you are gearing up for a race, experiment during your training to find what works best for you, and then stick to it on race day.
Within an hour after your workout, make sure to re-fuel with a meal or snack that provides both carbohydrates and protein. Carbs replenish your muscle glycogen stores and give you energy, while protein promotes recovery and repairs the micro-tears that occur in your muscles during exercise. Eating a balanced post-run meal or snack also helps curb hunger levels and stabilize blood sugar, which can prevent overeating later on. For an easy post-run snack that combine carbs and protein, try low-fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit or granola. For a post-run meal that combines both carbs and protein, try a veggie omelet with a whole wheat English muffin or a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread. If you’re short on time, a glass of low-fat chocolate milk is a quick way to replenish carbs, protein and fluids. You can also do a home-made fruit and yogurt smoothie to help you refuel and rehydrate at the same time. Here’s one of my favorite recipes that can be easily adapted to your preferences (and what you have in your fridge.) Just blend and enjoy!
• 3/4 cup of low-fat yogurt (plain or vanilla)
• 1 cup of milk (or milk alternative of choice)
• 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit
• 1 banana
• A handful of greens like spinach or kale (optional, but an easy way to pack in extra nutrients and you won’t even taste it)
Don’t forget about fluids! Improper fueling may hamper exercise performance, but dehydration can be fatal. By the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated. Make sure to drink 8-10 ounces of fluid in the half hour before you head out, and sip on fluids every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. Water is typically fine for exercise lasting less than one hour, but as the temperature and humidity increase, you may need a sports drink to replenish fluids and electrolytes (mainly sodium), especially if you are a “salty” sweater. The best gauge of your hydration status is the color of your urine- look for a light lemonade color (not iced tea!) Outside of exercise, it’s important to stay well-hydrated throughout the day by drinking water and other naturally decaffeinated, sugar-free beverages. Aim to consume about half your body weight in water daily. Don’t forget that fruits and vegetables also contribute to your fluid intake, not to mention being packed with nutrients and antioxidants that athletes need for optimal recovery and performance!
With these nutrition tips to help you fuel for and recover from exercise, you’ll get more out of your workouts and be on track to reach your fitness goals.
Want more support? Check out our Commit to Lean packages or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. From one-on-one nutrition counseling to gourmet meal plans, Good Measure Meals has got your back with 360 degrees of support to help you reach your health and fitness goals.
This post was contributed by GMM Registered Dietitian, Alissa Palladino, MS, RD, LD.