Friday, March 9, 2012

Eating for Exercise

This morning, as I was getting ready for the day, I overheard an interview with Dr. Oz on T.V.  He was discussing eating for exercise in the morning.  One of his tips that stood out was to aim for 30 grams of protein in your morning meal.  It got me thinking – am I eating well when I exercise in the morning?

What to eat before exercising

As I alluded to earlier, I am a morning exerciser.  I love it because it gets the day started on the right foot.  Not to mention, I know if I don’t do it then I never will.  I even sleep in my workout clothes so I can literally roll out of bed, put in my contacts, throw on my shoes and run out the door.  So the last thing I want to do is eat something right before I work out.  And Dr. Oz agrees with my notion to skip a snack.  By hopping right to my exercise and forgoing food I will mainly burn fat since my glycogen stores (your body’s backup supply of carbohydrates, basically) are depleted from a night without eating.   However, sports dietitian Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, CSSD suggests downing a small snack such as a piece of toast, half a bagel or a banana along with a glass of water if your exercise is especially strenuous. 
The reason you mainly want to avoid eating prior to working out is that once you have a meal your blood flow concentrates on your stomach to aid in digestion.  Which means your extremities used during exercise are lower in blood flow making exercise a bit more difficult.  Ideally wait one hour after you do have a meal to get your calorie burn on.  So if you work out later in the day, aim to make that meal low fat, moderate in protein and carbohydrates, lower in fiber and made up of well tolerated foods.  In other words, McDonalds, pasta buffets, Fiber One products and spicy foods may not be your best choice before exercising.  Here are some pre-workout meal ideas:
  • Chicken breast sandwich with a cup of yogurt (unless you can’t tolerate dairy)
  • Slice of veggie and Canadian bacon pizza – light on the cheese and a side salad
  • Turkey wrap with a couple slices avocado, spinach and red pepper
  • A cup of Greek yogurt with a Kashi granola bar
  • Chicken stir fry over ½ cup brown rice
A word on “carb loading”:  it is not necessary unless you are preforming very hard continuous exercise for 90 minutes or more.  Have a half or full marathon the next day?   Have a big plate of spaghetti the night before.  A 5K?  Not so much.  Just make sure you eat normally the day before and have a light snack preferably 1 hour before race time.

Staying hydrated

Your best source of hydration during exercise is going to be water.  In fact, you should aim to have 16 oz 2 hours before you exercise.  To figure your needs during exercise, weigh yourself before you exercise and immediately after and consume 2 cups of water for every pound lost.  Sports drinks aren’t necessary unless you work out of 90 minutes or more in a hot or humid environment.  Otherwise, the excess sugar and sodium aren’t needed.

After exercising

As mentioned earlier, Dr. Oz recommends 30 grams of protein at your morning meal after exercising.  He also recommends adding some healthy fat and fiber.  So I dreamed up some healthy breakfast ideas that follow those parameters.  These are also healthy options even if you don’t exercise in the morning.
  • Smoothie

    • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
    • 1 cup cold water
    • 2 handfuls spinach
    • ½ cup frozen blueberries
    •  ½ frozen banana
    • 1 Tbsp Chia seeds
    • 1 scoop whey protein powder
    • Blend and Enjoy!
  • Egg & Avocado Wrap 

    • Microwave ½ cup liquid egg substitue in a coffee mug for a couple minutes stirring half-way.
    • Meanwhile, spread 2 Tbsp mashed avocado on 1 La Tortilla Factory high-fiber tortilla.
    • Add some roasted red pepper slices and cooked eggs, wrap up and enjoy with a cup of skim milk.
  • Banana Dog 

  • Yogurt Crunch 

  • Healthy Egg Scramble 

    • Scramble up 2 eggs with 1 Tbsp skim milk and place in a warm skillet. 
    • Add chopped red pepper, onion, broccoli and any of your favorite veggies. 
    • Just before the eggs are finished cooking, add ½ cup diced chicken and finish cooking.
    • Top with ¼ of an avocado, diced and salsa. 
    • Enjoy with a slice of whole wheat toast.
Give one or two of these recipes a try.  Their high protein content are a guaranteed way to keep you full all morning.  And if you aren’t a morning exerciser I suggest you give it a try.  I promise, it gets easier after a while; I know those original early morning wake up calls are no fun.  If it ends up not being your thing, no big deal.  The only rule with exercise is that you do what you love.  And if intentional movement in the AM makes you hate working out don’t worry about it.  Just make sure you take the time to make it work for your lifestyle and schedule.

Lindsay was awarded her bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food science with a dietetic specialization from South Dakota State University. She completed an internship program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and experienced many areas of dietetics including intensive care, solid organ transplant, weight loss and management, and long-term care. She is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association).

Lindsay believes practicing healthy nutritional habits and having an active lifestyle are an integral part of living a long, happy life. She enjoys her position as a Hy-Vee dietitian working directly with the public and educating them about a healthy lifestyle and finding ways to integrate good nutritional habits into their lives.
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