Quick Bites: What to Pack in When You’re Sweating It Out
Think of food as fuel. The right foods at the right times can give you the energy you need to exercise.
A snack or light meal before exercise can give you energy and prevent light-headedness. But too much food prior to exercise may cause an upset stomach.
Try a simple snack, like a bowl of oatmeal and a banana, about an hour before your workout. Or time your workout for about two hours after a light meal. If you eat a big meal, give yourself four hours before getting ready to sweat.
You may have seen runners or cyclists eating a food gel or supplement during a race. A good rule of thumb is to snack during exercise if your workout lasts longer than an hour. The same rule is true for when to choose sports drinks instead of water. For shorter workouts, regular water provides all that your body needs.
You’ve given your workout your all, and you have the sweat to prove it. You’ve worked hard to burn those calories — now what should you eat?
Start with the fluid. Drinking fluids to replace what you lost in sweat during your workout (rehydrating) is important. Good old-fashioned H2O is the best choice for shorter workouts. Sport drinks have added sodium, sugars and calories that are not needed to replace lost electrolytes for workouts like an average hike or a game of tennis. If your workouts are basic hour-long (or shorter) workouts, it isn’t likely that you’ll be at risk for dehydration or heat stroke.
Once you’ve hydrated, you can bring on some protein. Protein helps the body recover and rebuild broken down muscle fibers. After a strenuous activity, wait 30 minutes to one hour before eating.
You don’t need fancy or expensive nutrition bars or snacks. Here are six protein-rich foods for your post-workout recovery snack:
- Nonfat or Low-fat Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt has a high amount of protein per calorie. Lactose intolerant? You may be in luck. Most of the lactose in yogurt is removed. Add berries or other fruit for antioxidant-rich, lower-calorie carbohydrates.
- Low-fat Chocolate Milk: Low-fat chocolate milk helps to replace glycogen while providing the essential amino acids your muscles need to recover. Try to select one that is not sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.
- Banana with Peanut Butter: This ideal combo of carbohydrates and protein is an easy, on-the-go recovery meal.
- Cottage Cheese: Nonfat cottage cheese provides protein and is a naturally rich source of the muscle-building amino acid leucine.
- Eggs (1 medium): Eggs contain protein and 13 other vitamins and minerals. Add a little orange juice for vitamin C to get a dose of all the most important vitamins and minerals.
- Pistachios: Pistachios are easy to carry with you, and they offer potassium and sodium, which are two electrolytes lost when we sweat.
Want more exercise tips? Read April’s Fast Fitness article.
Sources: Active.com; Livestrong