Fuel Up!

Take these tips for getting energy without calorie overload.

You made a commitment to exercise and are ready to start moving on a regular basis. If you’re like most people, one of your primary reasons for exercising is to lose weight. So instead of calorie-laden (not to mention expensive) sports-specific bars, drinks, or gels, turn to food already in your kitchen for the energy you need for exercise and overall good nutrition.

Follow these three guidelines to make sure you have plenty of energy for exercise without taking in unnecessary calories:

Schedule exercise around your meals and snacks.You’ll have more energy for exercise when you eat a snack or meal 30 minutes to two hours before you start your workout. Exercising on an empty stomach to burn more fat is old news. The latest research from Brad Schoenfeld, MS, CSCS, in the February issue of Strength and Conditioning Journal shows that eating before exercising helps you work harder so you burn more total calories.

Plan to bookend exercise with regularly scheduled meals or snacks to avoid extra and unnecessary calories. For example, you might eat breakfast at 7 am and go for a walk at 8 am, then eat your lunch at the usual time. Or you might eat a snack at your morning work break and walk for 15 minutes before you eat lunch.

Drink an extra eight to 12 ounces of water before you start exercising. According to the Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition dietetic practice group of the American Dietetic Association, adequate hydration before exercise is crucial. If you’re active for more than 30 minutes, bring along a water bottle or plan your route so you can stop and get a drink periodically. Enjoy another eight to 12 ounces of water after you finish exercising.

Choose foods with carbohydrate to fuel your muscles: cold or hot cereal, a slice of toast, an English muffin, crackers, pasta, rice, fruit, or yogurt.

Add small amounts of protein to give your muscles a boost: a smear of peanut butter, eggs,Greek yogurt (it’s higher in protein than regular yogurt), or low-fat cheese, turkey, or chicken.

Aim for 200 to 300 calories one to two hours before you exercise to allow the food time to digest.If you have less time, beverages are digested quickly: Eight to 10 ounces of fat-free milk or 100% fruit juice are good choices.

Your body needs healthy foods all day, not just immediately after exercise. Exercising muscles continue to recover for up to 24 hours, which means that all of your meals and snacks play an important role. Include foods containing carbohydrate and protein in your meals and snacks after exercise to promote muscle recovery and restore your energy. Milk and yogurt contain leucine, an amino acid that triggers muscle recovery, plus they’re sources of carbohydrate, calcium, and vitamin D.

Instead of relying on expensive sports-specific bars and smoothies after exercise,plan your day so that you eat meals and snacks every three to five hours. The new Choose MyPlate meal planning guidelines at www.choosemyplate.gov give you an easy way to make sure you’re fueling your body with good-tasting and easily available foods.

These four tips will help you feel great for tomorrow’s exercise session:
  • Add eight ounces of fat-free milk or yogurt to your first postexercise meal or snack for extra musclebuilding power.
  • Choose whole grain cereals, pasta, bread, crackers,and rice for fiber and the naturally occurring nutrients found in these less-processed foods.
  • Reach for lower-fat protein foods such as skinless chicken or turkey, grilled or broiled seafood,or low-fat cheese or cottage cheese to avoid consuming unnecessary calories from fat. Legumes such as garbanzo beans, lentils, and black beans are perfect choices because they’re very low in fat, are packed with fiber, and contain both carbohydrate and protein.
  • Choose different-colored fruits and vegetables to enjoy a wide variety of essential nutrients. Think green (cucumber, peas, or kiwi); red (tomatoes and cherries); orange (carrots or peaches);white (radishes and onions); yellow (summer squash or peppers); purple (cabbage or grapes);and blueberries!
Do you credit yoga with transforming your mind or body? If so, you’re not alone. A new documentary film, Yogawoman, explores the ways in which women around the world have employed yoga for physical and emotional well-being and personal growth. It features many of the best-known instructors working today, such as Shiva Rea, Desirée Rumbaugh, and Elena Brower.