With the Summer 2016 Olympics about to start, we all might be feeling a little extra motivation to get extra involved and active. But are you making the right choices nutritionally to fuel your workouts? Let’s break it down here.
First, an important thing to note about eating for exercise is that it depends on what you’re doing. This may seem obvious, but if you’re participating in endurance, high calorie-burning activities such as swimming, long distance running, or rowing, you need a lot more energy than lower calorie intensive exercises like yoga, walking, or leisurely biking. Both types of exercise are great, but you need to fuel differently for them.
This mostly comes down to portion sizes. While yoga is great for core strength and lean muscles, you don’t need to load up on calories and fuel as much as you would to fuel, say a 90-minute soccer game. Listen to your body’s hunger cues and pay attention to the signs of over and under fueling. As a general rule regardless of exercise, try to get in three meals a day, don’t go into a workout too full or too hungry, and refuel within 30 minutes after a workout. Just remember, each body is different. Some people need to be full to give their full energy, while others can’t handle any food before exercise. Listen to your body and find what works best for you!
Over and Under Fueling:
If you’re not sure you’re eating the right amount, check in on these signs of eating too much or too little.
If you’re not eating enough, you might: feel chronically fatigued (even when you’re catching enough Zzz’s), develop stress fractures, lose weight, or feel like a bottomless pit of hunger, especially in the late evenings (don’t get hangry). This late in the day hunger shows that you’re not eating enough, either earlier in the day or overall. Try to have a solid breakfast with a mix of carbs, protein and fat to fuel up right for the day and skip the afternoon hunger pangs.
On the flip side, if you’re overestimating your workouts and over fueling, you’ll likely see the numbers on the scale creep up. This is common, especially for those increasing their exercise levels. To fight this increased hunger, eat smaller, filling snacks throughout the day, like fruit, yogurt, nuts and eggs.
Both under and over fueling can keep you from improving your performance, so pay attention to your body and adjust accordingly!
Good Workout Snacks:
So now that you have an idea of how to eat for your activity, what should you actually eat? Here’s a list of great snack options before and after workouts. Before your workout, you should focus on eating light, easily digestible carbs for fast energy (no mid-workout side cramps for you). After your workout, combine carbs and protein to replenish glycogen and repair the muscles. A good rule of thumb is to aim for snacks with around 200 calories (check the labels and serving sizes to make sure you’re on track).
Goldfish/ Animal Crackers (1 small packet)
Dry fruit (1/4 cup)/ Cereal (3/4-1 cup)
Bagel with light cream cheese/ Pb & J (for endurance workouts)
Fruit and peanut butter