Although I usually like to think of eating as more of an art, there are moments when it is a true science. Take fitness for example. Many women I know try to restrict the food they eat to accomplish weight loss goals, and completely sabotage their health (and weight loss) along the way. The way you fuel your body will dictate how your body responds to exercise.
1. Timing is Everything, Eat Accordingly
Our bodies are smart. And demanding. Have you ever tried to exercise on a completely empty stomach? I have, and it’s not fun. You will likely feel as though you have no energy because you DON’T! Food is fuel, and I recommend eating something small (approximately 150-200 calories) with a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein about 1-1.5 hours before you exercise to increase your glycogen stores which will give your body access to quick energy to fuel your activity. The time after your exercise is the prime time for muscle repair. The 2 hour window immediately following exercise is the time when your muscles will be looking for protein to help repair the ‘damage’ from your exercise (this is what builds muscle tissue: in fact the 30 minute window right after exercise is the best time to fuel up if possible). Aim to consume something with 20 grams of protein as soon as possible after you exercise maximize this process. A smoothie is my go-to post workout snack but yogurt, hummus and pita, crackers and cheese, apples and almond butter or a glass of chocolate milk will also do.
2. Eat Enough Protein
Research shows that in order to build muscle mass, we need to consume larger doses of protein in one sitting. Remember, lean muscle tissue is more metabolically active, meaning that it burns more calories even while we are at rest. For anyone between 18-55 years of age, I recommend aiming for 20 grams of good quality protein at each meal, and 25-30 grams per meal for anybody older than 55 years.
3. Stay Hydrated
Every system in our body requires water (in fact our bodies are mostly water). Water helps our bodies metabolize food, carries important nutrients to where they are needed, and is the foundation for our bodies’ natural detoxification system that helps flush toxins from our bodies. Drink 2 glasses of water prior to exercising and sip while sweating to avoid dehydration. A more rigorous hydration plan may be in order for more intense exercise. Electrolyte replacement drinks are likely unnecessary unless you are exercising for longer than 2 hours at a time. If you are planning any intense exercise, consume an electrolyte drink prior to exercising to avoid depletion during your activity.