If you’ve been in the fitness game for a while, you’ve probably heard the 80% nutrition, 20% exercise rule. While several factors can play into those numbers, the idea is fairly accurate. Simply put, exercise alone typically won’t give you the fitness results you want. You have to combine it with the proper diet to reach your goals.
Additionally, your diet plays a huge role in the effectiveness of your workouts. You can’t drive a car without filling it up with gasoline, and you can’t get the most out of your workout without fueling your body the right way.
When you’re regularly exercising, it’s important to know how you should be eating to maximize your workouts and your results. Don’t give into fads like low-carb diets, or cut certain food groups out completely. Your body needs the right fuel to push itself and repair itself. Thankfully, changing your diet can be easy when you have a plan in place and know what you need to reach your goals.
Let’s look at the things you should be doing to fuel your body the right way. When you start to make these changes, you’re bound to see a big difference in how good you feel and how well you perform during your workouts.
You don’t have to be a fitness buff to recognize that staying hydrated is important during a workout. In fact, you probably can’t wait to get a few sips of water in between sets or during a break on a long run. But, if you’re not staying hydrated the right way, you could be hindering your workouts rather than helping them.
According to the University of Utah, hydration needs to start before your workout. You should drink at least one cup of water four hours before you plan on exercising. During your workout, drink 4-5 ounces every 15 minutes. After your workout, your goal should be to drink double the amount of fluid your body lost through sweat.
Drinking water will help your entire workout feel easier. It replenishes electrolytes, glucose, and sodium in your body to give you the energy you need to keep going. After your workout, drinking enough will also help your muscles to repair and your body to absorb nutrients at a more effective rate.
Knowing How to Fuel
Fueling before you workout is one of the most important things you can do to stay strong through your routine. But, how you fuel up makes a difference. A good rule of thumb is to consume complex carbohydrates anywhere from 2-4 hours before your workout. Carbs will provide you with sustained energy that will last through your workout, giving you the fuel you need to run that extra mile or get one more rep in.
If you’re going through a long workout, like hiking or trail running, you might need to fuel yourself along the way. That’s why some marathon runners and distance cyclists carry quick “snacks” with them, usually gels and bites filled with electrolytes.
You can give yourself an energy boost and keep your body properly fueled by carrying healthy snacks with you, especially when you’re working out outdoors. Some of the best options include:
- Dried fruit
Snacks that provide a quick boost of carbs and/or protein, and are easy to carry are always a good option.
No matter how you’re trying to fuel before a workout, make sure you know the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs will burn up quickly, and you’ll feel weak and depleted shortly into your workout. Complex carbohydrates take longer to burn up, so they’ll offer sustained energy for a longer period. Things like brown rice, sweet potatoes, and whole-grain pasta are fantastic choices.
Recovering the Right Way
Fueling your body for regular exercise isn’t just about what you eat immediately before and after a workout. It’s about making consistent dietary changes that will keep you strong and healthy between exercise routines.
Your post-workout eating habits should include a lot of foods rich in protein to repair your muscles and give you back some energy. But, in the days that follow a hard workout, you should have a meal plan to keep your body in good shape and ready for your next routine.
Meal plans look different for everyone, but they should contain a healthy mix of lean protein and carbohydrates. It’s also important to make sure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need. Ideally, you’ll get those through the food you eat.
But, if you have an aversion to certain foods or you know you’re not getting the fruits and vegetables you should, consider taking a supplement to fight back against any nutritional deficiencies. For example, taking a Vitamin E supplement can help to keep your immune system healthy and prevent inflammation – both important so you can keep working out effectively!
You are what you eat when it comes to fueling your body for a workout. Take these ideas and incorporate them into your exercise regimen, and into your diet if you truly want to create healthier habits and reach your long-term fitness goals.