There are many myths surrounding fueling for a work out.
“Often people think that they need to eat a lot more or that they can make unhealthy choices because they’re exercising,” says Lindsey Wohlford, MD Anderson Cancer Center employee wellness dietitian.
While getting the right amount and type of fuel, or calories, isn’t always easy, it is important.
Managing calories before, during and after a workout will help you:
- Maintain blood sugar during exercise
- Maximize exercise performance
- Improve recovery time
“Fueling and exercise work together, especially if you’re trying to lose weight,” Wohlford says.
It’s important to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need to work out and maintain a healthy weight, which will reduce your cancer risk..
Follow these tips to fuel properly before, during and after you exercise.
Fueling before you exercise
Make sure you’ve had the proper fuel before you work out. You don’t want to be so full that you make yourself sick, but you want to make sure you have enough energy to get through your workout.
Be sure to hydrate. And consider eating a snack one to two hours before you start. When it comes to pre-workout snacks, make sure you include a healthy carbohydrate, like fruit, a vegetable or whole grains. Healthy pre-workout snacks include:
- Apple and peanut or almond butter
- Oatmeal with nuts and berries
- Smoothie, 8 ounces
- Half a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread
- Greek yogurt and fruit
- Nuts and dried fruits
“Depending on the type of exercise you do, you may not need a snack beforehand,” Wohlford says. “Consider how difficult the workout is and how long the workout is and chose a snack based on that.”
It’s also important to find out what works best for you. For some people, eating before a workout could leave them with an upset stomach.
“So much of this can be left to personal preference,” Wohlford says.
Fueling while you’re exercising
It’s important to maintain hydration, no matter how long your workout is. But in most cases, you should stick to water and avoid the extra calories that come with drinking energy or sports drinks.
“The average person doesn’t need a sports drink during exercise,” Wohlford says.
If you are doing a more difficult workout, like training for a marathon, be sure to choose a drink with electrolytes and proper carbohydrate content. You may need to refuel. If your workout is longer than an intense hour, you may need to replace the calories you’ve burned to keep going.
Fueling after exercising
After you exercise, rehydrate and refuel your muscles with carbohydrates. And make sure you add protein. This will help your muscles repair themselves and grow stronger after exercising.
Healthy post-workout snacks include:
- Banana with peanut or almond butter
- Low-fat chocolate milk
- Half a turkey or tuna sandwich
- Low fat Greek yogurt with fruit
- Energy bar
- Protein shake, 8 to 10 ounces
But be sure you don’t overeat.
“It’s common for people to think they’re burning more calories than they actually are,” Wohlford says. “Exercise isn’t an excuse to eat unhealthy foods. You don’t want to undo all the work you accomplished.”