We’re well into the month of January, so if losing weight and being more physically active are goals that you are working on for 2014, hopefully you are beginning to have an exercise routine established. How are you fueling your activity? Should you drink water or a sports drink? Should before activity fuel be carbs or proteins, and what should you eat after? When is the best time to exercise? Or does any of this matter?
Quite often patients will ask me when the best time to exercise is. My standard answer has been when you can do it. Well research has finally shown that exercising in the morning is the best time. The reason for this is simply because it is less likely to be cancelled or postponed for something else than any other time of the day. No science behind it, all to do with busy lives.
If you are exercising in the morning it is good to have something to eat about an hour before. Exercising on an empty stomach isn’t good for most people. You don’t want to eat too much before a workout just a small amount of carbohydrate and protein will work. Quick ideas: Greek yogurt, slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, cottage cheese with some fruit mixed in.
If you have time, a small fruit smoothie might be a good choice if you’d rather just drink something. If you are tight on time, a banana works since it is portable and easy to eat and doesn’t require any utensils. A string cheese would provide protein along with the carbs from the banana. Have a bunch of bananas available on your kitchen counter so if you are heading out to exercise and you are running a little late you can just grab one and go.
Eating before exercise, instead of exercising on an empty stomach, has been shown to improve exercise performance. Eating in the morning helps to replenish liver glycogen and steadies blood sugar levels as well.
Even in the winter you want to get in enough fluids. Typically, you should average about eight 8-ounces glasses of water daily. An additional 4 to 8 ounces of water for every 15 minutes of intense exercise is beneficial. If you are have a bit of a drive to the gym you could be getting in some of your water on the way. If you work out at home, start with a glass of water when you first get up. When exercising in cold weather, keeping your body core temperature warm is important – this is much easier to accomplish when you are adequately hydrated.
Should some of your fluid be coming from a sports drink that has electrolytes added to it? A rule of thumb to follow is IF you are exercising for more than an hour or IF you are exercising in really hot, humid weather, such a product may be beneficial. Otherwise, your body is very capable of replacing any sodium or potassium you may be losing through your workout out when you eat the next meal.
After a workout, eating within two hours helps your muscle recover. If you eat carbohydrates within 15 to 20 minutes after a workout, your body can quickly replenish muscle glycogen which is the stored energy or fuel that your body needs for exercise. Once again, a mixture of carbohydrates and protein works best.
If your goal is weight loss, be sure that your calorie intake, even with your after-workout snacks, is still creating a calorie deficit to allow you to shed pounds.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.