Guidelines for Exercise
We all know that exercise and physical activity are part of any weight loss/maintenance program. But working enough exercise into a busy schedule can be tricky - especially while also trying to juggle healthy meal planning. Without forethought, it's easy to "bottom out" after heading into a workout on an empty stomach - or to finish dinner and feel too full for an evening jog.
The trick is to time eating and physical activity to reap the most rewards from each. The right timetable is variable, as there are several factors to consider: how long you will be exercising, what time of day, what kind or exercise, and what level of intensity.
First off, there are a few guidelines everyone should abide by:
1. Eat breakfast:
Your body has already used up the energy from last night's dinner and you'll need fuel to get the most out of your workout. Include a good source of lean protein with your breakfast as well. If you're exercising in the morning be sure to wake up early enough so you have time to fit in a small meal.
2. Don't skip meals:
Skipping meals increases your chances to overeat at the next meal, or to make less healthy food choices.
Drink 2-3 cups of water prior to exercise and make sure to drink during and after exercise as well.
Here are some guidelines for timing eating and exercise:
Eat a small meal or snack 1-4 hours before working out. The closer it is to your exercise time, the smaller the meal/snack should be. Include carbohydrates (which will be stored in your body as glycogen - that's what your muscles use for energy) and a lean protein such as egg whites, low-fat cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, or lean meat. Also, be sure to hydrate your body with water before working out. If you are even a bit dehydrated, your body may respond with cramps during exercise or you may feel lightheaded.
Make sure to drink plenty of water while you are exercising. One cup for each 15-20 minutes of exercise is ideal. If you are planning to exercise for longer than 60-90 minutes, you may benefit from a sports drink to replace some of the electrolytes lost through sweat - but these drinks often contain plenty of calories, so use them sparingly. Bring water/sports drink with you especially if you plan to be hiking, biking, or doing something in the great outdoors where it may be hard to find a drinking fountain. If you plan on being outside for many hours, be sure to bring along some food to snack on such as fresh fruit and low-fat cheese, or a sandwich made on whole grain bread with lean protein such as sliced turkey.
Be sure to hydrate after exercising! Drink at least 2-3 cups of water after a workout; if you've been exercising for more than 90 minutes, have a single serving of a sports drink to restore electrolytes along with water. You'll also need to replace those glycogen stores in your body by eating some carbohydrates along with some protein. Studies have shown that a ratio of 4:1 (carbs to protein) is ideal for a post exercise snack. Try to eat within two hours after your work out; within 30 minutes is ideal.
For more recipes and nutrition tips, check out Cheryl's Blog