How nutrition fuels fitness

Courtney Slater, Special to the Register
Published 3:42 p.m. CT Jan. 25, 2018

If your New Year’s resolution is to make 2018 the year you get fit and start a workout program, good for you. Along with a workout plan, you’re going to need a plan for healthy eating and hydration. 

Here’s why: Sports nutrition helps us fuel our exercise and promotes rapid recovery. We need to start hydration and healthy eating between 30 minutes to 3 hours prior to our exercise. In addition, if our exercise is more than an hour in duration, we’ll need to make sure we are continuing to hydrate. To promote recovery after exercise, we will also need to continue hydrating and replacing electrolytes and protein.

The benefits of sports nutrition include:  

  • Allows you to train harder longer 
  • Delays onset of fatigue 
  • Improves body composition and strength
  • Enhances concentration 
  • Prepares the body for the next day’s workout 
  • Helps maintain healthy immune function 
  • Reduces the potential for injury 
  • Reduces the risk of heat cramps and GI distress 

What should you eat for a pre-exercise meal or snack? Kim Schwabenbauer, RD, LDN, CSSD, a registered dietitian, coach and professional triathlete, recommends a high carbohydrate meal/snack that is reasonably low in fat/fiber and that you have tried before (i.e. nothing new). It should be eaten 2 to 3 hours prior to exercise and should consist of 200 to 500 calories, depending on the duration and intensity of the workout. The closer you get to your exercise time, decrease the carbohydrate and calorie content of the meal/snack and choose a smaller snack. You can also include some lean protein — milk on cereal or Greek yogurt.  

During exercise, you may consider a sports drink to improve mental function. To stay hydrated, make sure you drink fluids throughout the day — water is the best choice for daily hydration. It’s best to save sports drinks for longer duration exercise (more than 60 minutes) as they provide carbohydrates, sodium and other electrolytes. 

After a workout, chocolate milk can be a great choice to replenish muscles. In a study reported in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, athletes in a lab setting at Indiana University biked until exhaustion, then rested for 4 minutes. During the break, they drank either chocolate milk or Gatorade or another sports recovery drink, Endurox. Results showed that chocolate milk was as effective as Gatorade and twice as effective as Endurox in muscle recovery. 

For an after-workout snack, aim for 15 to 25 grams of protein, such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, beef stick and crackers, apple and peanut butter or low-fat string cheese and crackers. A smoothie with yogurt also is a good after-workout meal. However, be careful when it comes to added calories and smoothies. Some can add up to a lot of extra calories and sugar. 

This information is not intended as medical advice.  Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Strawberry-Cherry Workout Smoothie

Here’s a great smoothie recipe. Yogurt boosts protein, and quinoa adds fiber and protein in this fruit smoothie recipe. Use ice cubes if you like a frosty smoothie or leave them out if you don’t want it so cold. 

Serves 2

All you need:

  • 1 c. plain coconut yogurt, or other dairy-free yogurt
  • 1 c. unsweetened frozen strawberries
  • 1 medium banana, peeled, frozen, and cut into pieces
  • ½ c. unsweetened frozen red tart cherries
  • 1/3 quinoa, cooked and cooled
  • ¼ c. unsweetened vanilla coconut milk
  • ½ c. ice cubes
  • honey, to taste
  • Fresh strawberry slices, for garnish

All you do:

  • Place coconut yogurt, strawberries, banana, cherries, quinoa, and coconut milk in a blender. Cover and blend until combined. Add ice cubes. Cover and blend until nearly smooth (smoothie will be thick). Add honey to taste.
  • Serve in tall glasses. Garnish with fresh strawberry slices, if desired.

260 calories, 4g total fat, 60mg sodium, 58g total carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 3g protein

About the author

Courtney Slater received a Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Grand View University and a Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics from Iowa State University, where she also completed her dietetic internship.

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