Tips to Fuel Up Right for Your Workout from Tips to Fuel Up Right for Your Workout

Tips to Fuel Up Right for Your Workout

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Tips to Fuel Up Right for Your Workout

Consuming the correct amount of food before and after a workout is not rocket science. The fact is that exercising on an empty stomach will have a negative impact on your training session, but what and how much to eat prior to aerobic and anaerobic activities is a complex issue. If you don’t want to feel your body crash, feed it the right nutrients at the right time, Lara Felton, leading RDN and head of the dietary team at mobile nutrition app ShopWell, says. Lack of fuel means lack of energy, which leads to poor quality performance and increased risk of injuries.

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Pick carbs and some protein before working out

There is misconception that you need protein before working out so you can build muscle. “Protein is an important building block for muscles,” Felton says, “But carbs is what muscle cells need for energy. No carbs in the body will force it to find another source of fuel, leading it to break down muscle instead of fat.

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Leave fiber for later

“Fiber is a funny thing,” Felton says. “You need some but not too much.” High fiber foods can upset your stomach while exercising, which is why you should consume such foods about two hours before you work out. Oatmeal with fruits and nuts is a good choice, she adds. Fiber can also lead to bloating. That can make your training session very uncomfortable.

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Eat at least 90 minutes before working out

“The body takes time to digest a meal so you have enough energy in your system,” Felton says. Don’t put yourself at risk for side cramps. The food you’re consuming should contain about 300-500 calories, she adds. Think chicken, ham, tuna sandwich, chicken and pasta, boiled eggs and brown rice, whole grain cereal, or a bowl of oatmeal.

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If you must eat just before the gym…

If you eat right before exercising, look for the bread category, Felton says. “A slice of wheat bread with peanut butter will do.” Hectic schedules and long commutes sometimes don’t allow for the luxury of eating when we’re supposed to. Grab a quick 50-100 calorie snack for a quick burst of energy, Felton says. Choose mostly fast-digesting carbs like fruit – think oranges, bananas, apples, raisins – or a granola bar.

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Drink, drink, drink

Nutritionists and personal trainers can’t stress this enough – stay hydrated. “The body is a very efficient organism,” Felton says. “If it doesn’t have enough water, it has a way of finding water and energy by going to resources that break down easier and muscles are very easy to break down,” she adds. During a workout, drink ¼-½ cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. In warm weather, you sweat more so you likely need to drink more.

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About sports drinks, gels, energy bites…

“They have a place for certain types of athletes but most people won’t need them if they are working out for less than an hour,” Felton says. Water is the best choice for them. Sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade will help replace electrolytes and carbohydrates, she adds.

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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, according to Felton. A study shows that it may be the best post-exercise drink because it has twice as many carbs and protein as regular milk, which is what you need for muscle recovery after training. The water in the milk replaces the fluids you lost while sweating and that keep you hydrated. This kind of milk has  extra sodium and sugar to help your body retain water and regain energy.

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Milk alternatives

If you avoid dairy, Felton says, try chocolate soy milk. It has a comparable 4 to 1 proportion in terms of grams of carbs and protein. You can also go for a piece of fruit with a hard-boiled egg, which has a similar ratio, Felton adds.

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Focus protein after working out

An ideal post-workout meal is a blend of carbs and protein. The basic rule is to aim for 50 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein within 1 hour of finishing your workout to begin the muscle recovery process. “A sandwich is a good place to start,” Felton adds. You get the carbs from the bread and protein from cheese and some meat. A smoothie is a simple recovery drink, as long as you keep the same ratio – yogurt (for extra protein), protein powder, some fruits and spinach (or kale).

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Beware of “glorified candies”

If you don’t have time to prepare a proper recovery meal, try protein bars or shakes instead, Felton says. But know what to look for in the label so you don’t end up consuming something with too much sugar. “You want to have a couple of grams of fiber and 15-20 grams or carbs but not a lot of sugar.” Bars with 20 grams of protein are OK for a post-workout snack. “One of my favorite go-to options is Greek yogurt,” she adds.

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Keep it simple

The closer you get to a workout, the smaller and simpler you want your snack to be. Your body won’t have a lot of time to digest the food and absorb the nutrients, so you can’t make its job too difficult. Otherwise, you’ll feel heavy, bloated and sluggish. A small bowl of cereal or a piece of fruit is a good option.

Tips to Fuel Up Right for Your Workout