Getting the energy you need
As soon as summer is among us, we can’t wait to take out our bikes, our skates or our running shoes to get back in shape. Whatever your fitness objectives are, working out without the proper fuel is like trying to drive a car without gas. So what can you eat to avoid running out of energy?
Eating like an athlete
A well-balanced diet can benefit us every day. It would be wrong to think that an athlete’s good diet is limited to the few days leading up to a training session or competition.
If your activity level is similar to the Canadian government’s recommendation of 150 minutes a week, you don’t need to increase your calorie or carb intake. However, if you work out every day or even multiple times a day, you would benefit from a nutritional plan devised by a sports nutritionist.
Sugar, your body’s best friend!
During a workout, our muscles need fuel (energy). The perfect fuel is found in foods that are rich in carbohydrates. Carbs are a must for any athlete, as it is much more easier for our muscles to get fuel from the glucose in our body than any other energy source. Our body will always opt for the least demanding source of energy.
The longer the physical effort, the more our body will need to transform its stored fat and protein into glucose to fuel our muscles. However, this process is very long and demanding. That’s why carbohydrate-rich foods are strongly recommended during a workout.
When and what to eat
We can classify carbs that are useful to athletes in two categories:
- Simple Carbs (white sugar, honey, fruit and fruit juice, vegetables and dairy products)
- Complex carbs (grains or grain-based products like bread, rice, cereal, pasta and beans.)
In general, a well-balanced diet will provide an athlete with enough carbs to work out 1 to 5 times a week. Also, our body’s carb reserves are enough to meet our energy needs for any workout under 60 minutes long.
The closer your snack or meal is to your workout, the richer in carbs your snack or meal must be. It’s just like filling up the gas tank right before a trip!
A few examples of meals and snacks to eat before a workout
3 to 4 hours before a workout
A full, balanced meal with foods from 3 of the 4 food groups:
1 or 2 eggs, low-fat cheese, fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, etc.
1 to 2 hours before a workout
A fueling snack:
Toast with all-natural peanut butter
A bowl of cereal with milk or yogurt
Crackers and hummus
Less than 1 hour before a workout
A light snack:
A cranberry-vanilla smoothie or sports drink
½ of a banana (or an entire banana)
A fig cookie
A fruit yogurt
During the workout
A carbohydrate-filled snack:
A banana, dried cranberries (or other dried fruit), fruit paste, fruit leather, jujubes or energy gel
After the workout
It’s important to avoid excessive fat intake (fatty meats, fried food, nuts, cheese, etc.) at all times because they take a long time to digest and will have a negative effect on your performances.
Also, you should sometimes eat food that’s rich in carbs at the end of the workout to help maximise recuperation before the next workout. Check out our article on post-workout nutrition!
How to hydrate properly
While you’re working out, it’s important to stay hydrated and replace all fluid losses associated to sweating. For a workout of under 60 minutes, a few sips of water every 15 to 20 minutes is generally enough.
For a 1-to-2-hour workout, athletes can also benefit from a sports drink or electrolyte drink to replace all minerals and sodium lost through sweating.
Eating appropriately will help you push your limits and maximise the fun in your workout. And now it’s time to pay – in sweat!
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patience Fruit & Co.
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Science & Fourchette
Annie Ferland is founder and editor of the magazine Science & Fourchette and a nutritionist. Epicurean and a lover of photography, she shares her creations and tips about nutrition on her blog, Science & Fourchette. Her motto: simplify science to put on your plate.Visit blog