A necessity. A celebration. An indulgence. An art. A hassle. A fear. Food can hold so many meanings and emotions at different moments in our lives. The short and skinny, however, is that we need it to survive and, if we make the right choices, food can support us in living a longer, healthier, more productive and ultimately happier life.
Many of my clients look to me to help them make food choices that will support their goals for exercise, fitness and overall health. The timing, size and content of the foods you choose can either enhance your workout or derail it. Your food choices also have an impact on how your body will recover and rebuild after workouts.
The average woman between the ages of 31- 50 should consume 1,800 calories per day if sedentary; 2,000 if moderately active and 2,400 if active. Likewise, the average male between the ages of 31-50 should consume 2,200 calories if sedentary; 2,400-2,600 if moderately active and 2,800-3,000 if active. For younger men and women, the caloric intake is slightly higher and for senior adults those counts decrease.
It’s important to time your meals prior to a workout so you feel energetic, but not so full that you want to crawl back into that cozy bed. No matter what time of day you work out, try to balance carbohydrates and proteins in a meal eaten one-hour prior to exercise.
Contemporary diet trends have led many to shy away from carbohydrates and focus on proteins only. While the proteins are vital in muscle building and repair, it’s the energy from the carbohydrates that are necessary to help you resist weights or hurl your body down the running trail.
Look for carbohydrates with a low gylcemic index (GI of 55 or less) such as most fruits and vegetables, beans, minimally processed grains, pasta, low-fat dairy foods and nuts. These types of carbs will be more readily available in your body when you need them to get you through that morning spin class. Avoid high glycemic index carbs (GI of 70 or higher) such as white bread, rice cakes, most crackers, bagels, cakes, doughnuts, croissants and most packaged breakfast cereals. Try to avoid fatty meals, which take longer to digest and therefore will not be available for the body if eaten with an hour of exercise.
At a recent Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) consensus conference on food, nutrition and sports performance, the FAO stated, “Carbohydrate containing foods [are] identified as having the most significant impact on exercise performance. The nutritional importance of protein, as a fuel for exercise and as a contributor to strength development, has been over emphasized, whereas the fluid intake has been, by comparison, underplayed.” The FAO asserts that in high performance athletes one should carefully consider which carbohydrates you choose. “The metabolic response during exercise is different as a consequence of the glycemic indices of the carbohydrates consumed preceding the exercise, and so the choice of carbohydrate in pre-competition meals could have an effect on performance.” (FAO)
A balanced and healthy diet should contain carbohydrates as 50 percent of our daily intake, 35 percent or less from fats, and the remaining 15 percent or more from proteins. Moving away from high fatty foods and high glycemic carbs is important, but fruits and vegetables are necessary for nutritional balance. The FAO recommends that endurance and high-intensity athletes increase their carbohydrates to 60 percent of their dietary intake, 30 percent or less from fats and 10-15 percent proteins.
Water is also a key component in exercise. Plan to begin drinking water one hour before your workout begins, as you will loose that water rapidly during your workout. Coffee or tea is all right, but try having a full glass of water prior to that morning delight. I have personally found that if I carry a water bottle around with me at work and while I chauffeur children to afternoon activities, I am less likely to overeat at meal times, feel more energetic and powerful in my workouts and crave fewer snacks or treats.
Nearly two-thirds of the human body is made up of water. It is a vital nutrient that is involved in every function of the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, water is necessary for body temperature regulation, lubrication of joints, moistening tissue in the mouth, eyes and nose. Water consumption protects body organs and tissues, helps prevent constipation, helps dissolve minerals and other nutrients to make them accessible to the body, lessens the burden on the kidneys and liver by flushing out waste products, and carries nutrients and oxygen to cells. So grab that trendy new BPA free bottle, slap some cool stickers on it and fill‘er up.
- Written for MTparent.com