Summer is just around the corner. Kudos to all of you who stuck with your exercise resolutions! A key to keeping your energy levels up before, during, and after exercising is what you eat, your pre-game and post-game strategy if you will. To help you power through your exercise routines and put your healthiest food forward check out these ten quick and simple tips!
#1. Focus on high carbs and moderate protein about 90-120 minutes before your workout.
Meals should be high in complex carbs (think whole grains), have some protein, and be low in fat. Aim to eat your pre-workout meal about 2 hours before exercising so you’ve got the fuel you need without any pesky side cramps. The meal should contain about 300-500 calories. Think: chicken/ham/tuna sandwich, chicken and pasta, boiled eggs and rice, whole grain cereal, or a bowl of oatmeal.
#2. Don’t go crazy on the fiber before your workout.
High fiber can upset stomach while exercising. Say “bye bye!” to stomach aches by avoiding large servings of food, especially high fiber foods, before exercising. Some fiber with every meal is ok, especially if it’s veggies.
#3. Limit high fat foods 2 hours before your workout.
Note – fats take a long time to digest! Step away from fried foods, pizza, etc as a pre-workout snack. Some fats are okay, like some avocado or peanut butter toast.
#4. Be smart, don’t go hungry!
You’ll just feel lethargic during the entire workout. Eating a snack before exercising doesn’t defeat the purpose exercising, promise! If you don’t eat at all, you run the risk of breaking down muscle which can stress out your body during exercise (totally not the purpose!).
#5. Have only 30 minutes before a workout? Grab a snack!
Sometimes have a pre-workout snack 2 hours beforehand just doesn’t work out. See tip #4, don’t go hungry! Instead, grab a quick 50-100 calorie snack for a quick burst of energy. Choose mostly fast-digesting carbs like fruit (think oranges, bananas, apples, raisins), a granola bar, or some crackers and you are good to go.
In the heat of it
#6. Stay hydrated during your workout.
I can’t emphasize this enough, drink water! During a workout, drink ¼-½ cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes throughout your training session. In warm weather, you sweat more so you likely need to drink more. If you are exercising for more than 60 minutes, switch to a sports drinks like Gatorade/Powerade to help replace electrolytes and carbohydrates.
#7. Focus on high carb and protein post-workout.
Looking for the secret formula for refueling after your workout? An ideal post-workout meal is a blend of carbs and protein. The basic rule: Aim for 50 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein within 1 hour of finishing your workout to begin the recovery process (for your muscles).
#8. Limit foods high in fiber and fat within 2 hours of your workout.
These foods will just upset your stomach. Plus fats slow down the absorption of the protein and carbs. Fiber and healthy fats (think fish, nuts, olive oil, peanut butter) are an important part of a balanced diet so be sure to include healthy sources of fat and fiber in your other meals and snacks throughout the day.
#9. Recovery on the go? Focus on protein!
Don’t have time for a full meal after you exercise? Try protein bars or shakes instead. One of my favorite go-to options is Greek yogurt. It makes a great healthy snack that can be eaten on its own or used as the base for smoothies.
#10. Just say “YES!” to chocolate milk.
Yes, you read that correctly, I said chocolate milk. Chocolate milk provides the perfect ratio of 4 grams of carbs to 1 gram of protein, which is optimal for post-workout muscle recovery.
Wayne is a Silicon Valley local. He holds a B.S in Clinical Nutrition from U.C. Davis and M.S in Sports Nutrition from Marywood University and is a current dietetic intern at Fresno State. He spends most of his time weightlifting and running which is probably unbalanced by his major weakness for desserts.