4 Nutrients to Help Spring Into Fitness

Monday, May 2, 2016

Dumbbells and healthy food, fitness and dieting, free copy space
By Melissa O’Shea, MS, RD, Contributing Blogger

With the warm weather finally upon us, more and more people will be heading outdoors and increasing activity. Fueling your body with the right nutrition will help you get the most out of your workouts and maximize your results. Here are 4 key nutrients to keep your eye on while ramping up your exercise regimen.

Calories
The amount of calories you need varies depending on the type and amount of exercise you do. However, eating enough will ensure you’re properly fueled before exercise and are equipped with the building blocks you need to recover. If your goal isn’t weight loss, you will want to replace the calories you burned to maintain your weight. If you’re trying to lose weight, find the sweet spot where you aren’t replacing all of the energy expended, but you aren’t leaving your body depleted either.

Carbohydrates
Low-carb diets are still popular today, but cutting back on carbohydrates isn’t smart if you’re regularly active. Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of fuel during exercise. Cut back too much and you’ll most likely have to cut your workout short. Try and include a good source of carbohydrates in your pre-workout meal or snack. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 15g of carbohydrates for a workout less than 60 minutes and at least 30g if you go past the hour mark.

Protein
While carbohydrates are most important pre-workout, protein becomes essential post-workout. Your body is in prime repair mode in the 30 minutes to one hour after you complete your workout. During the recovery process your muscles repair and rebuild—ultimately, that’s how they get stronger. In order for this process to occur, your body requires amino acids. Most of us are already getting enough protein in our diet, but if you’re vegetarian or have dietary restrictions, you could be falling short. To find out how much protein you need as an active adult, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.5.

What Should You Eat?

Pre-workout
Always eat a little something before you head out for your workout. Your pre-workout meal or snack should be high-carbohydrate, low-fiber, and low fat. If you exercise first thing in the morning, even a small piece of fruit will do. Here are some other ideas:

  • Apple and low-fat string cheese
  • 1 brown rice cake topped with 1 tablespoon hummus and cucumber slices
  • 1 slice whole grain bread topped with 1 tablespoon all natural nut butter (like peanut or almond)
  • ½ cup cooked oatmeal and ½ cup fruit (like sliced strawberries)

Post-workout
The goal is to aim for a 3:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. Some recovery snacks ideas:

  • 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt with 1 cup berries
  • 2 ounces of turkey, 1 ounce of cheese and apple slices
  • Protein smoothie made from 1 scoop protein powder, low-fat milk or yogurt and fruit
  • Trail mix made from 1/2 ounce of nuts , 2 tablespoons dried fruit, and ¼ cup whole grain cereal

Don’t Forget Water!
Another key essential nutrient to any workout plan is water. You should be thinking about water before, during and after your workouts. Here are the recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine:

  • Before exercise: Drink 16-20 fluid ounces of water at least four hours before exercise and 8-12 fluid ounces 10-15 minutes before.
  • During exercise: Drink 3-8 fluid ounces of water every 15-20 minutes during exercise. Plain water is adequate for up to 60 minutes of exercise. After that, consider supplementing with an electrolyte enhanced sports drink.
  • After exercise: Drink 20-24 fluid ounces of water for every one pound of body weight lost.
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