When do you work out? Is it first thing in the morning, during your lunch break, or maybe after work? Like most people, your work out time is dictated by everything else on your schedule. Between work, school, kids’ activities, and family dinners, at some point during the day you carve out time to exercise. Go you!
But are you thinking about the food you’re choosing to fuel your workouts? How many times have you had a workout interrupted by a sudden lack of energy, dizziness, side cramps, or that dead weight in your stomach from a large meal? Both the food you eat and when you choose to eat it have an impact on your ability to complete your workout. Eating too much too close to your workout can leave you feeling sluggish or cause digestive issues, while eating too little can make you feel lightheaded. Either way, you body doesn’t have the energy it needs to power through your workout.
So when should you eat? Well, it depends on when you work out. Ideally, you should eat a nutritionally balanced meal 1-2 hours before you exercise. This meal should contain no more than 50% of the calories you expect to burn during your workout. If your workout normally burns 500 calories, then you should aim to eat 250 calories. 50-60% of these calories should come from carbohydrates, 25-35% from protein and 15% from fat. Carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, bread, cereal, and pasta, help keep your blood sugar levels stable and provide energy for your workout. Protein from meats, cheese, eggs, dairy and soy help build and maintain muscle. Some good meal choices include:
· Low-fat yogurt with a piece of fruit
· Raw vegetables and hummus
· Cottage cheese and fruit
· Half a chicken, turkey or lean roast beef sandwich on whole-wheat bread
· Low-fat string cheese with whole grain crackers
· Hard boiled eggs
· Trail mix containing nuts and dried fruit
For a morning work out in Atlanta, plan on waking up early enough to eat breakfast. Don’t rely on the previous night’s dinner to provide the energy for your workout. Most of that energy was used up while you slept, leaving you with low blood sugar. Exercising with low blood sugar can cause you to feel slow and unsteady. If you can’t bring yourself to wake up more than an hour before you exercise, have a lighter breakfast. And if the thought of eating anything in the morning causes you distress, try having a sports drink. They generally contain sufficient carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar and fuel your workout. Otherwise, some good breakfast choices include:
· Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and a piece of fruit
· Fruit and yogurt smoothie
· Small whole-grain bagel with peanut butter
If you haven’t eaten in awhile, or you only have 30 minutes before a scheduled workout, choose a small snack of easily digestible, simple carbohydrates containing 100-200 calories. Simple carbohydrates will cause fewer digestive issues during your workout than complex carbohydrates since they take less time to digest. Some good snack choices include:
· Fruit juice or smoothie
· Sports drinks
· Crackers or pretzels (not whole-grain)
It is important to think about the food you eat before you exercise. A combination of carbohydrates, some protein and a little fat will provide you with the energy you need to power through your workout. But even the best food choices can derail your workout if not given enough time to digest. The key is to find the foods and timing that work best for your body, and be consistent. If you are concerned about your pre-workout diet, schedule an appointment to speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian. There are tons of qualified people in Atlanta who would love to see a healthier and more fit Atlanta!!
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