What to eat, when: Part I

Good food choices combined with the correct timing and quantity of meals are essential for optimal training and performance when you exercise, regardless of your chosen sport.

Catie Blakely, a summer intern with the Bond Wellness Center’s nutrition program, gave a presentation in July regarding nutritional requirements for those who are working out . Specifically, she focused on the needs of those involved in training for a 5K, but her advice applies to all individuals exercising at a moderate level.

How many calories do you burn during a 5K run?
To put things in perspective, a 5K run is approximately 3 miles. As a general rule you burn 100 calories for every mile you travel. So, if you are training to run a 5K, chances are that you should not increase your calorie intake all that much, but you may benefit from thinking about what and when you eat.

WHAT TO EAT (a brief overview)

Carbohydrates
Carbs are stored in the body as glucose in the blood and glycogen in muscles. Glucose and glycogen are your body’s first sources for immediate energy, and therefore an increased amount of carb intake yields a greater amount of energy to maintain exercise.

Protein
Proteins are composed of amino acids. Once ingested, proteins are broken down into their respective amino acids, which are then used to repair cells of the body. When you work out, you are literally tearing apart your muscles, and amino acids are used to repair and strengthen those muscles.

Protein helps form red blood cells, which are the oxygen-carrying components of blood. The more protein you consume, the more red blood cells form, which improves oxygen-carrying ability. That oxygen gets to the muscles to help sustain them during exercise.

How Much Protein?
Protein is found in many foods, including meats, dairy, tofu, beans, nuts and eggs. Protein needs vary based on your body weight and your level of physical activity. A sedentary adult, for example, should consume 0.4 grams of protein for every pound of body weight, while an endurance athlete should consume 0.6 to 0.7 grams of protein for every pound of body weight.

Put another way, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should consume between 60 to 120 grams of protein in a day, depending upon your level of physical activity. The lower the activity level, the less protein you need.

Liquids
Water is the most important liquid to consume. After vigorous exercise, you need to replace the water that your body lost through sweating. Sports drinks are not suggested for activities lasting less than 1 hour. Those popular sports drinks you hear about contain carbohydrates that are used as a quick and easy way to replenish your body’s energy stores. These drinks are best for higher intensity and endurance activities, hot and humid conditions, or stop-and-go sports requiring quick bursts of energy and activity. Most of us won’t need sports drinks. Water will do.

Next week, we’ll post Part II of this sports nutrition discussion!

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