What to eat when you’re exercising (Part II)

See Part I of this article here.  

In general, it’s best not to eat a large meal closer than an hour before exercise. Aim for four to six mini-meals to stabilize blood sugars and fuel muscles with glycogen. Eat three smaller meals and two to three snacks in a day. 

“This will help prevent over-eating. Your body uses food much better if it is spaced out,” Donna said. “Breakfast is very important. Your liver-glycogen levels are lowest in the morning.”

Ideally, your breakfast should include some carbs, protein and a little bit of fat. “Try fruit and yogurt smoothies, or a whole-grain waffle with peanut butter and banana. Cereal and milk, a hard-boiled egg and whole-grain English muffin, or homemade trail mix with nuts and dried fruit,” Donna said.

After a workout, you need “recovery” foods. A workout stresses the body and used up glycogen. Eat something that includes both carbs and proteins within 30 minutes after a hard workout. Fruit, cheese, yogurt, peanut butter, crackers and energy bars are good choices.

Not all energy bars are the same

Energy bars are heavily marketed as quick energy boosters before, during and after exercise, but they should be chosen with caution. “Many are high in calories, salt, and sugar, and too-low in protein and carbohydrates,” Donna said. “Choose a bar that has a balance of ingredients, and check to see which is listed first on the package. When the bar contains more carbs than protein, it’s a good sign, especially if you are using it as a post-exercise recovery food.”

The main reason people eat an energy bar is to get through to the next meal or as a meal replacement. The best use, according to Donna, is to refuel muscles while engaging in an endurance activity. “Be sure to eat them with water,” she said.

Donna handed out a chart that compared the calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, sodium, fiber, and sugar-alcohol content of more than a dozen popular energy bars. The Larabar-Mini, Luna-Mini, and Bora Bora are good low-calorie choices that contain primarily fruit and nuts. On the other end of the scale are Cliff Bars—240 calories and 140 grams of sodium; the Power Bar Pro Plus—300 calories, with 150 grams of sodium; and the MET-RX Big 100—a whopping 400 calories with 390 grams of sodium.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Drink plenty of liquids before, during, and after exercising. If you have exercised less than an hour, water is best.  If it’s hot and you’ve been sweating and exerting yourself, then you may need fluid-replacements such as Gatorade and Powerade, with a good combination of carbs, sodium and potassium. “Be careful about vitamin water. It may not give you the same benefit as a sports drink, as there is no sodium in vitamin water. Vitamins and minerals are not going to give you energy. The main purpose of a sports drink is to replace electrolytes.”

Save those sports drinks for post-exercise, however, or if you are getting ready for a strenuous workout. They are otherwise too high in sugar and calories. “Gatorade and Powerade are not meant to be used if you are not exerting yourself,” Donna said. “Drink water or choose a 100 percent fruit juice if your exercise has not been too strenuous.” Water is best for hydration.

How much water do you need and when should you drink fluids while preparing for an endurance workout? “Drink 16 to 24 ounces two to three hours before, and 5 to 10 ounces 30 minutes beforehand,” Donna said. “Also drink 5 to 10 ounces every 15 minutes while exercising, and 20 or more ounces after you are done.”

How to gauge the amount while you exercise? “One gulp equals about one ounce,” she said.

Donna Poe works in Nutrition Services at The Bond Wellness Center, and offers individualized counseling, smartWEIGH group weight management series, and more. For more information call 603-924-4699 x 4319.

 

 

 

 

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