National Nutrition Month: Week Two

“Go Further with Food”

By Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Marina Bedrossian

Food = Fuel
Whether you are looking to fuel your daily exercise or your weekend race, your food choice can help you make it or fake it. Let’s take a look at food choices hours and days before exercise as well as the choices immediately before an exercise.

The day before…
Most of us remember the “carb loading” pasta dinners with the sports team before a big game—boy we sure knew how to take advantage! But did you know? Overloading with carbohydrates the day before an event can actually lead to feeling bloated and fatigued. Prepare yourself instead by including whole grains or high-fiber starches on one-quarter of your plate the day before. If you are training for a big event, you may use up to half of your plate of carbohydrates for at least 2 weeks prior to the event. Beans and lentils are great choices here as they double as protein AND a starch, just as long as your body is accustomed to digesting them. Be sure to stay hydrated with water throughout the day. Limit alcohol, which is dehydrating and can negatively affect your performance. 

4+ hours before…
Notice if you are at all dehydrated. What is the color of your urine? Light lemonade-color is ideal. Anything darker means you should drink some water. Start with 8 oz. Enjoy a balanced meal with 1/4 of your plate whole grains or starches, 1/4 of your plate protein, and 1/2 of your plate non-starchy vegetables. 

2-3 hours before…
You should be well on your way to digesting your previous meal. If you are hungry at this point, choose high carbohydrate foods without too much fiber. High protein, fat, and finer foods take a long time to digest and may still be in your stomach when you are moving. Consider a piece of fruit, 1 slice of toast with jam, a small fruit smoothie made with coconut water, or even 4 oz of fresh juice.

1 hour before…
Focus on hydration and relaxation. Your body digests food best in a relaxed state. If you are routinely exercising first thing in the morning, you might do well with 2-4 oz of juice or half of a fruit for some “fast carbohydrates”. However, most exercises lasting 60 minutes or less do not require additional carbohydrates beforehand. The best method is to compare your performance and feeling on days with and without some fast carbs. 

During…
If your exercise is 60 minutes or less, water is all you need during your workout. If you are enduring a strenuous exercise lasting more than 60 minutes, you will likely benefit from an endurance sports drinks which has electrolytes and some carbohydrates.