Mar2011 Volume 4‎ > ‎


Exercising is tough work, and exercising on an empty tank can be even tougher. Regular exercise uses up the body's stored energy, which means if your body isn't "fully stocked" you will not be able to give it your all while training.
Knowing when and what to eat can make a big difference in how you feel during your workouts and how much you benefit after them. After years of research and experience, we've compiled a long list of "do's and don'ts". Here are a few tips to help you maximize your performance:

Timing & Size: Timing is important -- the goal is to have fueled your body with nutritious food that is no longer present when it’s time to work out. Eating too much food or the wrong food before exercise can impair your performance by making you feel too full or bloated. On the other hand, if you haven’t eaten in 6 hours or so and try to work out, you may feel weak and unmotivated. Here are some general guidelines when planning your meals:
  • Large meals (600-800 calories) - Eat these at least three to four hours before exercising
  • Small meals (400-500 calories) - Eat these two to three hours before exercising
  • Small snacks (100-300 calories) - Eat these an hour before exercising

Before: Stick with carbohydrate-rich foods and moderate amounts of lean protein. The carbs are both loaded with energy and easy to digest, while the protein helps preserve muscle mass. Try to avoid high-fat, high-fiber, gaseous, and salty foods which may cause those annoying stomach gurgles. Here are some great options to eat before:
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Fresh Fruit (bananas, oranges, apples)
  • Bagels, breads, pastas
  • Cereal w/ low-fat milk
  • Oatmeal
  • 12 crackers & 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter
  • Fruit Smoothie
  • Energy Bar

During: Don’t hit that wall! Exercise that exceeds one hour may require carbohydrate intake, to delay fatigue. Before getting too tired, consuming 30g of carbohydrate every 30 minutes can provide an extra boost. The simplest method for supplying your body with glucose when glycogen stores are running low is to drink a sports drink. Other options are energy bars, gels, or fresh fruits which will help keep up your blood sugar.

After: You just kicked your own butt, and now you should be able to eat ANYTHING you want, right? Wrong! It’s time to prepare your body for your next session. Studies show that carbohydrates combined with a little protein creates a better muscle refueling and building response, and it reduces cortisol, a hormone that breaks down muscle. If possible, try to eat about 20g of protein within 30 minutes post workout to help rebuild and make those muscles stronger.Try these great post-workout choices:
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly
  • Lean cuts of meat (chicken, turkey, and lean beef.)
  • String Cheese & Crackers
  • Nuts & Dried Fruit
  • Yogurt & Fruit
  • Fruit Smoothie
  • Chocolate Milk*
  • Lots of fluids
*Chocolate milk has become a new "old favorite" for after exercise.  Studies have shown that with the right balance of sugar and protein, the refueling effects are substantial.

Water should be your new best friend! Fluids are necessary to replace all water and electrolytes lost through physical activity. To stay well hydrated for exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine and the Mayo Clinic recommend that you:
  • Drink about 2-3 cups of water during the two to three hours before your workout.
  • Drink about ½-1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes during your workout. You may need more the larger your body is or the warmer the weather is outside.
  • Drink about 2-3 cups of water after your workout for every pound of weight you lose during the workout.

*If you’re exercising for more than 60 minutes, use an electrolyte sports drink to help replace lost potassium, calcium, sodium, and chloride. Sweating out all of those "body salts" and not replacing can be disastrous. Not only will this increase the likelihood of poor performance but can cause cramping and even far more serious consequences like water intoxication.

So the next time you are working out and starting to feel a little sluggish, think back to what you ate and drank earlier in the day. Was it enough? Was it quality? Are you well hydrated? Everyone is different, so let your experience guide you on which pre and post-exercise eating habits work best for you. When you find the right combination of balanced food choices for yourself, you’ll feel great and you’ll have more energy and strength for a winning performance.

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