Fuel Your Workout and Maximize Your Results

This article was contributed by Debbie M., MS, RD 

Did you know that during anaerobic activity like resistance training, sugar is your body’s primary fuel source?

The goal is to keep plenty of blood sugar available to fuel working muscles and prolong glycogen (stored carbohydrate) levels. Consuming good sources of carbohydrates achieves this and results in reduced fatigue, improved performance and extended exercise duration in aerobic activity and endurance sports.  Also, carbohydrates benefit strength training as it stimulates the hormone insulin to readily promote feeding the muscles during recovery.

Easy-to-digest items like starches are ideal to eat pre-workout.  Good food choices include: bread, bagels, crackers, pasta, potatoes, rice and fruit.  High-fiber complex carbohydrates like bran cereal, oatmeal, beans are nutritious, but don’t provide a lot of ready energy. High sugar (sweetened) foods are tolerated by some individuals, but not suggested for most to consume immediately before exercising. Downing food you’re not used to before exercising can make your bodily systems unhappy!  Choose foods and beverages that you enjoy and that don’t upset your stomach.  High-fat items may delay stomach emptying and digestion; so avoid foods such as nuts, cheeses, ice cream and anything fried prior to working out.

All of the following are examples of eating patterns for a 5 p.m. resistance workout:

1) 11a.m. lunch – vegetable pizza, oranges, water; 2 p.m. snack – large bagel, lean ham, skim milk. 5 p.m. snack – banana, water.

2) Noon lunch – green salad w/ grilled chicken, beans, iced tea; 4:30 p.m. pre-workout snack – low fat crackers, skim milk, pear.

3) Noon lunch – tuna salad sandwich, sweet potato fries, milk; 3 p.m. snack – baked pita chips & carrots with low-fat hummus; 5 p.m. snack – natural applesauce, water.

4) 1 p.m. lunch – burrito, grapes, milk; 4 p.m. pre-workout snack – turkey sandwich w/ low-fat cheese, diet soda.

5) 1 p.m. lunch – chicken & vegetable stir-fry, rice, juice; 4:30 p.m. pre-workout snack – energy bar, water.

There are so many possibilities, no one food or meal is ideal.  The best pre-workout meal and timing for an individual should depend on personal preferences/experience and eating habits that day.  In general, you want to allow for complete digestion and absorption after eating a full meal and wait 2 hours before you exercise.

The time to eat to maximize your exercise isn’t just before physical activity.  Drinks containing carbohydrates provide quick energy that may help during exercise lasting at least an hour. The concentration of carbohydrates varies, but a good level for exercise is 14-17 grams per 8 oz.  Also, if you sweat heavily or exercise for long durations, choose a carbohydrate drink with electrolytes.

The calories from these “fuel foods” need to be part of, not in addition to, your daily caloric intake total; so be sure to add them to your food log. For more information about how to track your calorie intake and why it is important CLICK HERE or go to https://blog.lafitness.com/2012/08/13/keep-a-food-diary-log-or-journal-and-lose-weight-faster/ to read more about this topic.

For more great TOP TIPS be sure to come back every week and follow LIVING HEALTHY. To learn how, CLICK HERE.

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