Nutrition for Fitness
There are a few musts when it comes to choosing foods that will improve
your exercise performance. You are eating to fuel workouts and to ensure you
have energy throughout the day. This isn’t only about choosing vegetables over doughnuts.
It’s about getting the right calories at the right times, and it all starts
with your morning meal.
Get Off to a Good Start
The research is unequivocal about breakfast. According to the Mayo Clinic, skipping
breakfast can lead to weight gain, not to mention a severe lack of energy.
Eating a healthy breakfast is important every day, of course, but it’s
essential on the days that exercise is on your agenda. Skipping breakfast can
make you feel lightheaded or lethargic while you’re working out.
However, eating the right kind
of breakfast is crucial. Too many people rely on simple
carbohydrates to start the day. A bagel or doughnut won’t keep you feeling full
for very long, and it won’t fuel a workout. Try oatmeal, oat bran, or any hot
or cold cereal that is high in fiber, then throw in some protein, such as an
egg, some milk, or yogurt. According to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, having
protein at breakfast time fends off hunger longer and can actually help with
weight loss efforts. If you’re making pancakes or waffles, put some cottage
cheese in the batter and slather peanut or almond butter on top before you eat
Count on the Right Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates have gotten
a bad rap thanks to the last decade’s fad diets, but they are actually the
body’s main source of energy. It’s just that in our culture, we rely too much
on the simple carbohydrates
found in sweet and processed foods. We should focus on the complex ones found
in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans. It’s the complex carbs that
make you feel comfortably full for longer.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, whole
grains, including whole-wheat bread and whole-grain pasta, have staying power
because you digest them more slowly than the refined grains. They also keep
blood sugar levels stabilized. About 70 percent of your total daily calories
should come from complex carbohydrates.
According to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), protein helps
replace certain cells in our bodies that die out after a certain amount of
time. For example, red blood cells die out after about 120 days, and must be
replaced. Protein also helps regulate some essential body processes, such as
keeping blood vessels open. It also supplies energy when carbohydrates are in
short supply. Adults need to eat about 50 to 65 grams of protein a day. It can
Boost Your Fruit and Vegetable Intake
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, the recommended “five a day”
should be the minimum. Aim to eat fruits and veggies from every color of the
rainbow every day. Fruits and vegetables provide fiber, antioxidants, and
electrolytes, and other essential nutrients our bodies need in order to
function properly. Every time you go to the grocery store, try to choose at
least one fruit or vegetable that you don’t eat on a regular basis. For snacks,
keep dried fruits at your desk or in your workout bag and raw veggies in the
Eat These Before Exercise
When it comes to
fueling up just before a workout, the right balance of carbs and protein is
best. They make you feel more energized than foods made with simple sugars, and
greasy food is an exerciser’s worst enemy. Some great pre-workout energy foods are
Bananas are full
of potassium and magnesium. These are minerals you need to replenish the fluid
and electrolytes you lose when you’re sweating hard.
Berries, Grapes, and Oranges
These are all full
of vitamins and minerals. They’re easy on the intestines and give you a quick
Nuts are a great
source of protein and essential nutrients, and give you sustained energy.
stores carry single-serving packets of peanut butter that don’t need to be
refrigerated and are easy to keep in your gym bag. You can put nut butter on an
apple, crackers, or a slice of whole-grain bread. If you don’t like peanut
butter, try almond or soy butter.
Add It All Up
According to the CDC, about 70 percent
of your total daily calories should come from carbohydrates, ideally of the
complex variety. Carbs like white flour and rice will make you feel hungry
sooner than you would after eating the more fibrous complex carbs. This is
because their fiber has been stripped away via processing, so you quickly absorb
the energy they provide.
The other issue to
consider is how much fuel your body needs on a given day. Weight loss diets
should never leave you feeling exhausted or ill. These are signs that you are
not getting enough calories. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a diet
of 1,600 calories should be sufficient for the average man to start losing
weight. Women could reduce their intake to slightly lower than 1,600 calories
per day. People who are very active or who don’t want to lose weight during
their fitness journey would need to take in more calories.
As you settle into an active lifestyle, you will
come to realize which foods give you the best energy and which might have
negative effects. For each person, these foods could differ slightly. The key
is learning to listen to your body and balancing what feels right with what’s
actually good for you.