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Sports Nutrition: Fueling and Re-fueling Your Training

Posted Apr 06 2010 7:46am

What you eat and drink before and after your workouts can make a big difference in the quality of your training  and your overall success as an athlete . Eating a pre-workout snack or mini-meal 1-2 hours before you exercise helps 1) sustain your energy while you’re exercising, 2) facilitate your post-workout recovery and  3) keep you from being ravenous and making poor choices after a workout. Skip the processed food –fast food does not make you faster! When you do eat something from a box or a can, READ THE LABEL CAREFULLY. If it requires a chemistry degree to understand the ingredients – don’t eat or drink it! A healthful, easy-to-digest, low-fat snack combining complex carbohydrates, protein and a little healthy fat will facilitate a high-quality workout. 

Here are some suggestions for pre- (or post-) workout snacks:

- Whole grain cereal and milk  

- Plain, Greek yogurt with a banana or berries and some chopped walnuts or slivered almonds; drizzle with honey (optional)

-Half of a turkey or peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread

-Handful of nuts and a piece of fruit

-Banana dipped in natural (no-sugar added) peanut butter or almond butter

-Apple and a hard-boiled egg

-Pear and a string cheese

-Whole grain bagel spread with peanut butter or almond butter

What about eating after you train? You want to refuel your muscles by eating a balanced meal consisting of once again complex carbohydrates, lean protein,  and a little healthy fat. Try eating within an hour of finishing your workout – that’s the optimal window of opportunity for refueling your muscles. Research shows that refueling with a combination of  carbohydrates and protein is the best for restoring glycogen in your muscles and liver.  So the list of pre-workout snacks above also work for post-workout snacks if you’re not going to have a regular meal for awhile.

Start your workouts already hydrated and be sure to hydrate throughout and after training. An electrolyte replacement drink may be helpful if you are exercising longer than an hour, you sweat profusely, or the weather is warm. Generally, 1-2 bottles of fluid (~ 16-20 oz) per hour of intense exercise should suffice. For the most accurate gauge of how much you need to drink post-workout, weigh yourself before and after and drink 16 oz of fluid for every pound lost.

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables post-workout should replenish any electrolytes lost through your sweat (with the exception of sodium), while supplying other vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients not found in sports drinks. Research has also shown that drinking lowfat milk (especially chocolate milk with its higher carbohydrate content) is a great way to both re-fuel and re-hydrate. It’s an ideal combination of carbohydrates, protein and fluid. If you’re lactose-intolerant – try Lactaid milk.

Be sure to experiment with your own tastes and digestive needs when it comes to pre- and post-workout fueling. What works for one person may not work for another. Don’t skimp on calories, but make your calories count with nutritious food choices. 

Be Well (and eat well!),


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