As a personal trainer, I often notice people struggling to push through their workouts due to their lack of fuel. From personal experience, I have learned that what you eat and when you eat can make or break your workout performance.
I discovered this truth when I felt lightheaded and had to leave the room during a high energy cardio sculpt class. Baffled because I had eaten and hydrated prior to working out, I searched the Internet for an answer because I needed to learn how to avoid another cardio crash. Below are some fitness foods I have discovered that we can all use to fuel up for the next workout.
As a peanut butter lover, I recommend eating a classic peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread two hours prior to exercise. This simple snack is filled with complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats that will give you the energy boost you need to push through your workout. The complex carbohydrates in peanut butter breakdown into smaller sugars that are used to fuel muscle contractions and help prevent the body from using protein as a primary fuel source. This is important because the body needs protein to build and repair the muscles post workout.
Another pre-workout snack that caters to those who only have an hour to spare is a bowl of granola cereal. At around 50 grams of carbohydrates with a small amount of protein, granola quiets the stomach and possibly decreases muscle soreness. For those of you who are not huge granola fans, I can relate. Granola cereal did not appeal to my taste until I came across Quaker Oats’ Honey and Raisins Natural Granola. With its sweet flavor and crunchy texture, this breakfast cereal is sure to satisfy the taste buds of any gym junkie on the run. Just make sure to measure your servings with care; half a cup of this gratifying granola cereal can come close to 200 calories.
If you are bolting out of class with less than thirty minutes to spare, go for a small serving of pretzels or apple sauce with 25 grams of carbohydrates. It is important to choose a light snack with 25 grams of carbohydrates or less when pressed for time for the body to start converting the food into energy. If consuming immediately before a workout, stick to a snack with about 15 carbohydrates.
Chomp on a small apple so you will not be running on empty. The simple carbohydrates in fruits allow for rapid absorption and are a fast way to obtain energy for exercise. It is not wise to eat a heavy complex carbohydrate meal right before a workout because it will take much longer for the body to process it and it will actually decrease workout performance.
No matter what time you plan on eating for your workout, remember to always hydrate and rehydrate with plenty of water. Drinking 15 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours prior to exercising and eight to 10 ounces 10 to 15 minutes before exercising is a sure way to thwart off dehydration and speed up your metabolism. In addition, you should also consume eight to 10 ounces of water for every 10 to 15 minutes of exercise to compensate for any fluids you have lost from sweating.
Reward yourself post workout with a tall glass of chocolate milk. This three to one mix of carbohydrates and protein helps the body recover from its hard work by taking on the high metabolic rate and reducing muscle soreness.
Running on empty is never a good idea. With proper fuel and good timing, students can boost through their workouts without falling victim to a crash.
(originally printed on the FIU Beacon)
Ratasha has traveled around the South Atlantic region as a competitive figure skater. Throughout her nine years of competitive skating, she reaped the benefits of vigorous workouts and learned how healthy eating is important in everyday life. Her passion for fitness and healthy eating has led to her becoming a cardio and abdominal conditioning instructor at the Florida International University Rec Center.