Food is fuel for your body! Your “fuel” choices influence how well your body will handle the stress of your workout, activity or competition. Timing of refueling also has an impact on your body’s ability to maximize the effect of your food choices. In other words, not only does it matter what you eat but when you eat and how much you eat.
If you are like most people, our busy lives do not always allow for us to time our meals. We need to rethink our food choices and reduce binge eating. It’s easy to assume that calories are calories and if I workout hard I can eat whatever I want and whenever I want it. That is not entirely true.
If you only eat three times a day, you may be consuming enough calories for your daily need but may be lacking calories to meet demands of your workout. If your body is running low or in a fasting mode, you may feel more tired, run down or have low energy - putting your body is at risk of injury and illness if this state continues during your workouts.
Do any of the following sound familiar?
1. I consistently have low energy during workouts
2. I feel run down during my peak workout times
3. I skip breakfast
4. My biggest meal is dinner
5. I don’t have time to eat.
6. I am working out hard but not getting the strength gains I want
If you answered yes to any of these you may need more assistance from a nutrition expert to help build a meal plan for you. However, there are small changes you can make that will help your body stay fueled and boost your recovery from workout as well as maximize your exercise performance.
What is the best timing for fueling your workouts?
Eating five to six meals each day, two to three hours apart will greatly improve your energy level throughout the day as well as during your workouts. Not fueling your body before and after a workout can leave you tired and sluggish during and after exercise. Ideally, you should provide your body with fuel about two hours prior to your workout and within 30 minutes after.
In the first hour of exercise, your body is most efficient at burning off carbohydrates that are readily available in your system. Your pre-workout snack should consist of around 100 calories of healthy carbohydrates, as well as eight to 16 ounces of water for hydration. In the first 30-60 minutes after your workout, your muscles will store carbs and protein as energy, which will also aid in muscle recovery. Your ideal post-workout snack should include 100 to 200 calories of more protein-dense foods, like cheese, yogurt, or a protein shake or chocolate milk, as well as water to re-hydrate.
Sample meal schedule for afternoon workouts:
•Snack before workout
•Snack after workout
Meals should focus on four food groups:
•Vegetables & Fruits
Consider these meal ideas
•Consider increasing your breakfast intake if feeling sluggish during your workouts
•Oatmeal and scrambled eggs, whole grain toast with nut butter and honey, whole grain cereal with milk, apples with nut butter, granola with Greek yogurt and fruit
Lunch and Dinner
•Your plate should have 30 percent protein, 20 percent healthy fats, 50 percent fruits and vegetables, whole grains
Snack before exercise (within one to two hours prior)
•Low-fat granola bar, pretzels, banana, bagel, dry whole wheat cereal
Snack after exercise (within 30 minutes after)
•Whole grain crackers and cheese and yogurt, apple/banana with nut butter and beef jerky
•Protein shake or chocolate milk
For more information about nutrition and daily caloric needs and how to make better food choices, visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate
By Jessica Hess, ATC, MAC, Ridgeview Rehab Specialties and Nichole Anderson, ATC, MS, MOAS, Ridgeview Rehab Specialties on Nov 7, 2017
Medical and health information presented here is intended to be general in nature, and should not be viewed as a substitute for professional advice. Please consult with a health care professional for all matters relating to personal medical and health care issues. In case of an emergency, please call 911.