National Nutrition Month Special
Fueling for Physical Activity
By: Rebecca Cline
Whether you are competing on a sports team or are headed out for some personal exercise, proper nutrition and hydration are vital for performance and recovery. Athletes and physically active individuals need enough calories to maintain growth and accommodate hardworking muscles. A combination of the right carbohydrates, water and protein can lead to optimizing workouts and following through for a healthy recovery. Here is what you need to know to nourish your body before, during, and after physical activity:
Before physical activity:
Carbohydrates: Fuel your body for your activity or training session to have enough energy for optimal performance. Eat a carbohydrate-rich snack about 60 minutes before your activity to fuel your body. Such snacks could include a banana with peanut butter, half a bagel, low-fat yogurt parfait, or whole grain cereal. Without these high-energy carbohydrates, you may begin to feel weak or dizzy when exercising.
Hydration: Plenty of water (six to eight ounces) before activity should be consumed to fully hydrate and prepare the body. As fluid intake is an important issue in sports nutrition, proper intake will also help regulate body temperatures during activity as well.
During physical activity:
Carbohydrates: If you are performing a long endurance activity that last several hours, eating some raisins or a high-energy bar may help maximize your workout and provide additional energy boosts.
Hydration: About four to six ounces of water should be consumed during activity every 15 to 20 minutes or your fluid intake should equal the fluid being lost (sweat). Even the slightest amount of dehydration can affect performance, so be sure to drink enough fluids during your exercise.
After physical activity:
Carbohydrates: After burning a lot of calories and your main source of energy during your activity, it is important to refuel with more carbohydrates to aid with recovery. There is no need to overeat after exercise, but a simple snack will replenish your body and be more readily prepared for its next workout. Again, whole grain snacks, fruits, and other healthy carbohydrates would be prime options to choose from.
Hydration: In order to properly recover, you should drink at least eight ounces of water immediately after physical activity. Typically, the goal is to replenish the sweat and electrolytes that you lost during exercise. The bottom line is that for every pound lost during physical activity, 16 ounces of water (or two cups) should be consumed. Proper hydration will also heal and calm your hard-worked muscles.
Sodium: If you are performing a continuous endurance physical activity (one to two hours long), rehydrating with a sodium-containing beverage (such as Gatorade) will help replace lost electrolytes and avoid cramps.
Protein: It is important to eat foods that contain protein after physical activity in order to repair and grow your muscles. Hard-boiled eggs, a glass of chocolate milk, or a handful of almonds are all great snacks to enjoy after activity.