By Joli Guenther, MSSW, NASM
You've probably found that whatever your fitness goals, your Horizon Fitness treadmill, elliptical or bike offer great support for your training. Using high intensity interval and cardio settings, tracking progress in the NikePlus.com community, and motivating music to drive your workouts are just a few of the ways to increase the training benefits of your home fitness equipment. You probably also know that good nutrition is key to getting the most from your workouts, but do you still find yourself wondering what to eat, or when to eat it? If you're working on taking your training to the next level, try a few of these tips to get the most from your menu.
Eat Early (and Often): You've heard it before, but fueling for performance really does require 5-6 small meals spaced throughout the day. Frequent meals keep energy high, give you more opportunities to make healthy food choices, and keep your food cravings under control. The key to making the most of this approach is planning ahead.
Get Your Calories Early: It's no secret that skipping breakfast leads to low energy, cravings for sweets, and, ultimately, weight gain. If you think you can't spare the calories, think again. Breakfast eaters tend to be leaner than those who skip this important meal…maybe because they're less likely to overindulge later in the day and have more energy to work out hard. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for 1/3 of your daily calories before noon. You can space this out over two small meals if that works best for your schedule and appetite.
Healthy Lunch: The old saying, "breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper" has a lot of wisdom behind it. Eating a healthy, substantial lunch will leave you with more energy for your afternoon or evening workout and less need for heavy, post-workout eating at night. Put your calories up front during the day when your body is able to use them. Your best plan for success is to think ahead of ways to have nutritious foods available and to plan for meals at intervals that will prevent you from getting too hungry.
Smart Snacking: Think about snacks as a way of making up for what your meals may have missed and to get what you need around the timing of your workouts. To get the most from your snacks, make sure they contain at least two food groups (meals should contain three). Pre-workout snacks help to keep your hunger under control, settle your stomach, and provide a boost for workouts lasting over an hour. If you've had a reasonable meal in the last three hours or a snack in the last two, you're more likely to overdo than under do this one, especially if your planned workout is an hour or less in duration. If you feel that you need the energy boost or have a long workout planned, experiment to find out what works and doesn’t work for your body. Think easily digestible, simple carbohydrate foods, such as half a bagel with jam, a banana, or fruit juice approximately 45 minutes before your workout.
Post Workout Recovery: Getting the most from your workout means giving your body what it needs to recover immediately afterwards. Time one of your snacks for the 45 minute window after your workout. A good recovery snack will contain both carbs and protein (preferably in a ratio of about four to one) to refuel and repair your muscles. Good foods include milk and a piece of fruit or half of a turkey sandwich. If you're on the go, chocolate milk, yogurt, or energy bars are convenient, portable, and balanced food sources.
Drink Up: Don't forget your water. If you're not sure how much you're losing from your workouts, weigh yourself before and after exercise. Each pound down on the scale is equal to16 ounces of fluid loss—the amount you need to replace your body's needs. To ensure that you're adequately hydrated before your workout, try drinking 16 ounces of water 2 hours prior to your workout and 8 ounces immediately before. This will give your body a head start on what it needs to keep up with the demands of your workout, without sending you to the bathroom throughout.
For more on using nutrition to get the body you want, check out this spring time post
Weigh In: Are you working on finding the right nutrition program for your workouts? What are your battles or tips to success?