Eating a well-balanced diet can help you get the calories and nutrients you need to fuel your daily activities, including regular exercise. When it comes to eating foods to fuel your exercise performance, it’s not as simple as choosing vegetables over doughnuts. You need to get the right types of food at the right times of the day.
There are many diet plans out there. But did you know that dieticians are virtually unanimous about one piece of advice? Here it is: Eat small meals — as many as six — throughout the day. Why? When you refuel every few hours, you avoid the boom and bust cycle that makes you feel depleted and can also lead to overeating. If you rely on caffeine and simple carbohydrates (bread, pasta, and sweets) to keep you going at various times of the day, you’re just fooling your body. Yes, carbs give you the quick fix, but they don’t provide long-lasting energy or feelings of satiety. Instead, stick with foods that take the edge off and prevent rebound hunger, ideally, meals that contain both complex carbohydrates—including whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables—and lean protein.
The research is unequivocal about breakfast. Your first meal of the day is an important one. Eating breakfast regularly has been linked to a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Starting your day with a healthy meal can help replenish your blood sugar, which your body needs to power your muscles and brain.
Eating a healthy breakfast is especially important on days when exercise is on your agenda. Skipping breakfast can leave you feeling lightheaded or lethargic while you’re working out. Choosing the right kind of breakfast is crucial. Too many people rely on simple carbohydrates to start their day. But a plain white bagel or doughnut won’t keep you feeling full for longer. In comparison, a fiber- and protein-rich breakfast may fend off hunger pangs for longer and provide the energy you need to keep your exercise going.
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. According to the Study, about 45 to 65 percent of your total daily calories should come from carbohydrates. This is especially true if you exercise.
Choosing the right kind of carbohydrates is important. Too many people rely on the simple carbs found in sweets and processed foods. Instead, you should focus on eating the complex carbs found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans. Whole grains have more staying power than refined grains because you digest them more slowly. They can help you feel full for longer and fuel your body throughout the day. They can also help stabilize your blood sugar levels. Finally, these quality grains have the vitamins and minerals you need to keep your body running at its best.
Protein is needed to help keep your body growing, maintained, and repaired. According to Reports red blood cells die after about 120 days. Protein is also essential for building and repairing muscles, helping you enjoy the benefits of your workout. It can be a source of energy when carbohydrates are in short supply, but it’s not a major source of fuel during exercise you’re well-fed.
Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of natural fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that your body needs to function properly. They’re also low in calories and fat.
Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at every meal. Try to “eat the rainbow” by choosing fruits and veggies of different colors. This will help you enjoy the full range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that the produce aisle has to offer. Every time you go to the grocery store, considering choosing a new fruit or vegetable to try. For snacks, keep dried fruits in your workout bag and raw veggies in the fridge.
Unsaturated fats may help reduce inflammation, and they help provide calories. While fat is a primary fuel for aerobic exercise, we have plenty stored in the body to fuel even the longest workouts. However, getting healthy unsaturated fats helps to provide essential fatty acids and calories to keep you moving. Healthy options include:
When it comes to fueling up before or after a workout, it’s important to achieve the right balance of carbs and protein. Pre-workout snacks that combine carbohydrates with protein can make you feel more energized than junk foods made from simple sugars and lots of fat.
Consider stocking your workout bag and refrigerator with some of these simple snacks:
Bananas are full of potassium and magnesium, which are important nutrients to get on a daily basis. Eating a banana can help replenish these minerals while providing natural sugars to fuel your workout. For added protein, enjoy your banana with a serving of peanut butter.
These fruits are all full of vitamins and minerals, as well as water. They’re easy on your intestines, give you a quick boost of energy, and help you stay hydrated. Consider pairing them with a serving of yogurt for protein.
Nuts are a great source of heart-healthy fats and also provide protein and essential nutrients. They can give you a source of sustained energy for your workout. Pair them with fresh or dried fruit for a healthy dose of carbohydrates. However, test these options to see how they settle. High-fat foods can slow digestion, and they may make food sit in your stomach too long if your workout is coming up quickly.
Many grocery stores carry single-serving packets of peanut butter that don’t require refrigeration and can be easily stored in a gym bag. For a tasty protein-carbohydrate combo, you can swipe peanut butter on:
If you don’t like peanut butter, try almond butter, soy butter, or other protein-rich alternatives.
If you’re trying to lose weight or tone your body, you may be tempted to cut a ton of calories from your meals. Cutting calories is a key part of weight loss, but it’s possible to go too far. Weight loss diets should never leave you feeling exhausted or ill. Those are signs that you’re not getting the calories you need for good health and fitness.
According to the Research, a diet containing 1,200 to 1,500 daily calories is suitable for most women who are trying to lose weight safely. A diet with 1,500 to 1,800 daily calories is appropriate for most men who are trying to shed excess pounds. If you’re very active or you don’t want to lose weight while getting fit, you may need to eat more calories. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian to learn how many calories you need to support your lifestyle and fitness goals.
As you settle into an active lifestyle, you’ll probably discover which foods give you the most energy and which have negative effects. The key is learning to listen to your body and balancing what feels right with what’s good for you. Follow these tips:
The right balance of carbohydrates, protein, and other nutrients can help fuel your exercise routine.