When we exercise we tend not to think too much about our pattern of food and drink consumption until something hits us; be it exhaustion, lack of performance, or stamina. Not only should we be thinking about how many calories to consume, but also what kinds of foods and drinks we should be eating at particular times to enhance our performance and speed our recovery periods.
If you run, jog, row, or do circuits as part of your cardio exercise, you might want to get most of your calories from carbohydrates. Carbs provide your muscles with glycogen, a form of energy that helps fuel your workouts and keep you going for longer. Good sources of carbohydrates include whole grain breads, pastas, rice, cereals, legumes, and fruits.
Remember, for every hour of cardio you should aim to get at least 30-60 g of carbohydrates through snacks, sports drinks, energy bars, dried fruits, gummy bears or energy gels. Don’t forget to refuel at every hour if you are doing longer periods of cardio and replenish your fluids (150 – 375 mL) every 15-20 minutes.
Protein is also needed to help your body recover. Experts typically recommend 1.2-1.4 g of protein per kilogram per day for endurance exercises.
If you are lifting weights, using stretch bands for resistance, doing presses or any activity with the intent to build lean muscle, you need a combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat to support and supplement your workout. Eat a combination of protein-rich foods with adequate carbohydrates and heart-healthy fats.
Protein is essential to building and repairing muscle and providing amino acids for fuel, however, it is only used as a minor energy source during your workout. Carbs are the predominant energy source during a strength training workout, therefore, make sure you have enough carbs pre-, during and post-exercise.
Your carbohydrate and protein needs will vary depending on the intensity and the duration of your training. Typically, male and female adults need 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This amount of protein should be adequate enough to support your body and the amount of physical activity you do. However, very active individuals who train intensely for several hours each day may need more protein in their diet.
For such individuals, experts recommend 1.2–1.7 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
Excellent sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese, eggs, legumes and soy products. If you are vegetarian, you can choose to get your protein from legumes, nuts, grains, eggs, milk and, or fish. With enough protein from meals, snacks and fluids during the day, you will not need additional supplementation or protein powder like whey or soy.
Don’t forget to look for foods and ingredients that contain more healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) like olive oil, canola oil, avocados, olives, almonds, peanut butter, walnuts, salmon, tuna, sardines, tofu and soymilk.
With the right arsenal of nutrition knowledge you can improve your workout performance and feel great about it this summer. Have a happy workout!
Rosanna Lee (P.H.Ec., M.H.Sc., B.A.Sc.) is a Professional Home Economist with a strong academic and professional background in nutrition and health education, physical activity, and public health communication. She has worked extensively with organizations like The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario and Dietitians of Canada’s EatRight Ontario. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 647.889.8854