It’s January and with the start of a new calendar year, many people are focused on getting into a regular routine with exercise and eating well. This year, turn your resolution in to a lifestyle by sustaining your exercise with proper nutrition. Here are four tips on how eating for exercise can help build strength, improve fitness and reduce soreness:
Have three meals daily, with 2-3 snacks in between meals
One of the biggest mistakes is increasing exercise and eating too little simultaneously. It may seem like a great plan for weight loss, but chances are you will run out of steam and may feel run down, sore, and lethargic after just a few days.
A better approach for the long term is to eat 4-6 times per day. This prevents you from getting overly hungry, and provides fuel so you are energized by the time you reach the gym, spin class, or walking route. Chances are if you are too hungry you will skip your exercise plans or cut it short.
Have a small pre-workout snack that contains carbohydrates
You may have heard of athletes who “carb load” before races. This strategy comes from knowing that we store fuel in the form of carbohydrates in our muscles, called glycogen. When there is not enough glycogen exercise feels more difficult.
Carbohydrates are found in foods such as breads, cereals and starches, beans, fruits, and dairy products. Eat a snack of carbohydrates 30-60 minutes before you get active along with 8-10 ounces of water. A banana, 6 ounces of yogurt, or toast with natural peanut butter are all good, low fiber options that don’t take long to digest or cause stomach upset.
Don’t forget to refuel during long workouts
For exercise over 60 minutes, begin re-fueling at 45 minutes. Choose a carbohydrate, as this is the nutrient your body relies on during extended periods of exercise.
Then, have 15 grams of carbohydrate every 15 minutes, such as juice mixed with water, sports drinks, or even solid food such as pretzels or banana. Sports nutrition products such as gels and gummy chews also provide the needed electrolytes to replace what you lose from sweat.
As soon as you finish exercise, eat a recovery snack
There’s nothing like a few days of intense soreness to keep you away from exercise. Eating the proper snack after exercise will boost muscle growth, reduce soreness and help you prepare for the next day’s workout.
Choose a snack that contains protein, carbohydrates, and has anti-inflammatory boosters to help start recovery. Try a smoothie with unsweetened cocoa powder (non-Dutch style) or 4 ounces of tart cherry juice. Other easy snacks include 6 ounces of Greek yogurt or a small protein bar. Also remember to have 16-24 ounces of water after exercise to stay well hydrated.
Need some support? In today’s world, nutrition can seem complicated. Work with one of our Registered Dietitians for personalized attention to achieve your nutrition goals.