Exercise Nutrition: How To Keep Your Energy Up
How many times has this happened to you?
>> You psych yourself up mentally (you are GOING to do it!)
>> You don the outfit (you can practically feel the energy flowing through your veins!)
>> You lace up the running shoes (Nike: Just Do It 'that's you.)
>> You grab your towel (because ANYONE SERIOUS needs a towel).
Then it's time.
It's time to sweat. It's time to burn the evil fat from your body. You face the treadmill (or stair climber, or rowing machine, or exercise video with the perky aerobics instructor on it).
And you start.
You warm up, and start moving faster and faster. The sweat starts to pour. The blood is pumping. Man, you are burning! That size 2 exercise instructor is going to look like a whale compared to you when you get through!
The adrenaline hits your blood and you feel GREAT! You could exercise forever! In fact maybe you will exercise forever!
Your time winds down. Ok, maybe you'd better slow down, no sense in going TOO crazy here. The cool down sure feels good. You turn off the treadmill, or the exercise video and head to the shower.
Then it hits you.
You feel like you want to die, or at least sleep for about 12 hours. You go through the day craving anything you can easily grab: anything edible or, depending on how good it looks, anything at all. Nutritional value? Who cares!
But nothing seems to satisfy you and you could swear that you've just eaten all the calories you burned during exercise PLUS more!
What was the point in exercising at all if you go through your day tired and eating everything in sight? It was just a waste of your time and a stress on your body for nothing right?
Well, not necessarily, not if you can learn from it. Here's how to avoid the above experience when exercising:
1) Check Your Hydration Levels
(I know not really exciting - but it will do wonders!!)
The average adult loses 10-12 cups of water a day (that's not including water we lose from exercise, caffeine, etc).
It's estimated that approx 75% of North Americans are chronically dehydrated. And even MILD dehydration will slow down one's metabolism as much as 3%.
And here's the key, all you exercisers: Lack of water is the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue!!!! Unfortunately this fatigue often gets mistaken for hunger and we eat more than we need in a desperate effort to get that water back into our bodies.
What can you do?
Before your workout: drink 1-2 glasses of water
During your workout: Have about '-1 cup of water for every 20 minutes of exercise
After your workout: Have at least 3 cups of water in the hour after you exercise.
2) Check Your Pre-workout Nutrition
Since you want energy over the long haul, your best bet is to try having some complex carbs before you exercise (like oatmeal, whole wheat toast, or whole wheat crackers).
Some people prefer to get their carbohydrate from fruit also, it depends on what works for you.
Try to combine this with a little bit of protein (like peanut butter on your whole wheat toast, or a couple slices of cheese with your apple). Try different combos and see what gives you the most energy.
3) During your workout:
If your workout is under an hour: Make sure you keep drinking that water and continue to listen to your body.
If you want to go more than an hour you should try eating 25 to 30 grams of carbohydrate every half hour (i.e. From sports bars, fruits or whole grains).
If you are exercising for more than 3 hours you should consider sipping a sports drink to replace lost electrolytes. Both sports drinks and energy bars help to maintain your blood sugar levels and prevent muscle glycogen (energy) depletion
4) After exercise:
Keep drinking that water! (See above) You also want to refuel with carbohydrates as soon as you can after exercise (toast, bagel, fruits, oatmeal, etc.)
Your body not only needs to refuel but it also needs to rebuild with some protein since intense exercise involves the breakdown of muscle tissue.
Some possible snacks are: Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat toast, cottage cheese mixed with fruit, scrambled eggs with whole wheat toast.
The most important thing is to pay attention to your body and feel what works for you as you exercise. If you feel light-headed or dizzy or in pain at any time during exercise stop! Respect your body and what it tells you.
Hopefully the next time you decide to face the treadmill (or the exercise video) you'll be able to feel great both during AND after you exercise.
You'll be able to feel as if you've made your body better and stronger, by feeding it and exercising it and keeping that energy up!