Article by Mackenzie Lane, UConn Dietetics Student
Do you ever stop to think about taking a bite of a granola bar before your morning jog? Or force yourself to skip a mid-hike snack so you can feast at the next meal? Or think post-workout meals will make you gain weight?
No need to look any further for fact-based nutrition and exercise information! Here are tips to keep you healthy and help you reach your exercise goals.
Before Exercise: Fuel up!
“Just as you put fuel in your car before you drive, you need to put fuel in your body before you exercise.” – Internationally-recognized sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD
Not eating anything before exercise can result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This can cause fatigue, blurred vision, and lightheadedness – all factors that can make exercise less enjoyable and can lead to injuries. Working out is a mental game just as much as it is physical, so your BRAIN needs fuel to stay focused on your goals, too!
Fuel up two hours before exercise with:
- Water – plain water is best!
- Healthy carbohydrates – complex carbs like whole grain bread or your morning oatmeal are great choices. Simple carbs, like toaster pastries and sugar-sweetened cereals, are not good choices. These sugary foods will not keep your energy levels up for very long.
If you can’t fuel up a couple hours before exercising and you only have 5-10 minutes, eat a piece of fruit. Bananas are a great choice for quick digestion and energy!
TIP: Avoid eating too much fat or protein foods before exercise. They take longer to digest than carbohydrates, take oxygen and blood away from your muscles, can cause an upset stomach, or speed up digestion too quickly.
During: Water, water, and more water!
Stay hydrated with small, frequent sips of water throughout your workout. This is true for high intensity workouts that last for several hours, as well as for low to moderate intensity exercise sessions.
If you are exercising for 1 hour or less: No need to fuel with food during your workout.
If you are exercising for longer than 1 hour: Fuel up with 50-100 calories of carbohydrates every half hour. Try pretzels, bananas, sports drinks, energy bars (more for high intensity endurance exercise).
TIP: If you can’t tolerate food during exercise, try sipping on a sports drink.
After Exercise: Refuel time!
This is when your muscles take protein from your blood to repair and build your muscles. It is also when your muscles best absorb carbohydrates from your blood to make up for your lower stores from exercise.
Aim to refuel 20-60 minutes after exercise with:
- Fluids – plain water, 100% fruit juice, and low-fat or skim milk are great options
- Sports drinks are NOT recommended after exercise. Drink them during exercise lasting more than one hour.
- Carbohydrates – whole grain bread, crackers, cereals, pasta; brown rice; fruits and veggies
- Protein – combine protein foods with carbs such as peanut butter and whole grain toast, or low-fat cheese and turkey sandwich!
Keep in mind, each type of physical activity is different for each person’s body. These are general recommendations. Follow what works best for you and your exercise goals! Keep up the hard work and remember to fuel your body with nutritious foods!
This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.