Are you someone that works out a lot but are never sure what you should be doing as far as your nutrition with exercise?
Trust me, I get it and you are not alone! I get asked A LOT by my clients as well as my Facebook community members (click here to join!) and on Instagram how to fuel up for activity!
This was something that always confused me, too before I finished school and my Master's degree. But, don't worry! My Master's degree in Sports Nutrition and Exercise Science serves me well and it's about to serve you, too!
I would first not eat anything, thinking that if my goal was weight loss, then I probably wouldn't want to add calories in. Then, I would fuel up for everything, like pilates and yoga too, and that was unnecessary!
So, for what, when, and why should we fuel up for exercise? Let's get started!
It's true that your body has energy stores in it's muscles that make you prepared to move and exercise whenever you choose, but, sometimes you need that little extra umph to get you going!
Why kind of activity warrants a pre-exercise meal/snack?
Think longer activity, typically lasting at least 60-90 minutes that is at a high intensity. Exercise that really gets your heart pumping and you're recruiting more muscle groups! Running is a great example, HIIT training, moderate to high intensity strength training, biking and such. These activities are PERFECT to fuel up for!.
What shouldn't you need to fuel up for?
Think shorter activity, one that you're only doing for 20 minutes or so, that you're not breaking a sweat in. Kind of like Pilates and Yoga. You wouldn't need to fuel up before going on a short walk (30 minutes or so) either. Our bodies store up enough energy that will last us about 2 hours of low to moderate intensity activity!
Why should we fuel up for these harder and longer exercises?
In our muscles, we store carbohydrates, also known as glycogen for activity and to keep up running! When we are working out for an extended period of time, we are engaging in aerobic activity, which means we are relying on our stores as well as oxygen to keep up moving and functioning. When we fuel up, we are adding more available energy for our bodies to utilize during activity to keep up at the top of our game.
So, what should we be having?
About 30 minutes to an hour before strenuous activity, you'll want to dig into a simple carbohydrate rich snack. Simple carbohydrates can get broken down very easily and fast to be able to utilize them for energy. Simple carbohydrate snacks include: Pretzels, dried fruit, whole fruit, fruit juice, toast, oatmeal, simple yogurt, or simple granola bar. All of these snacks are higher in simple carbs and low in protein and fat to prevent upset stomach! Having a snack high in fat and protein will take the body LONGER to digest and utilize their energy, plus they also can cause upset stomach and nausea as they sit in the stomach for longer!
I hate to say it, but you really don't need to be drinking gatorade as you're on the elliptical for 30 minutes. Sports beverages are really only warranted when you're exercising for at least 60-90 minutes at moderate to extreme intensity, PLUS, if you're a heavy sweater. And, gatorade and powerade aren't the best things you could be having, as they are lower in sodium than they should be and lower in sugar than they should be to be a refuel beverage. Your best bet is to just stick to water!
What's your usual fueling routine for exercise? Can you eat before exercise?