How Do I Fuel My Day With Nutrient Timing?
Consuming good and balanced nutrition is important for everyone, but as an athlete, nutrient timing becomes important as well. If you’ve experienced an intense workout while on empty, you know exactly what poor nutrient timing can do. With many distractions from our jobs, family and the general stresses of daily life, sometimes we forget how important it is to fuel our body according to the day ahead of us.
For an active person, the body needs to fuel with quality carbohydrates for energy, lean protein sources to balance blood sugar while providing recovery nutrients to the muscle and healthy fats to help moderate inflammation. By diving into each macronutrient’s role, it will be easy to see how to fuel throughout the day in order to maintain optimal performance, so you can reach your goals!
Think about your body having its very own gas tank that must have fuel in order to perform. Before exercise, focus on giving the body energy by topping off the “tank” one to four hours pre-workout with quality carbohydrates, while also refilling fluid levels to prevent dehydration and avoid any gastrointestinal (GI) issues.
Quality carbohydrates include complex sources such as whole-grain bread, brown rice or oatmeal containing B vitamins, fiber and whole grains; or simple sources such as fruit, containing antioxidants, vitamins and water.
The recipe for a great pre-exercise meal? High carbohydrate plus moderate protein and low amounts of fat and/or fiber. If you’re training in the early morning or if you have less than 60 minutes before exercise, try a liquid meal or snack for quick digestion!
Avoid eating high-protein or high-fat food shortly before exercise, since these foods take longer to digest and could result in an upset stomach. High-fiber foods, higher-than-usual caffeine consumption or highly concentrated sugar (mixing sports drink powder in too little liquid) and/or dehydration can all cause GI issues.
Pre-Exercise Fuel Options
1. Smoothie: 1 banana, 3/4 cup berries, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 5 to 8 ounces 100 percent juice (can dilute with water)
2. Breakfast sandwich: 1 whole-grain English muffin topped with 1 egg & ¼ avocado, with fruit on the side
3. Simple combination of sliced fruit with 2 boiled eggs
Drink 5 to 10 ounces 30 minutes prior to exercise. Don’t try to gulp a bunch of water to make up for dehydration during sleep if you’re exercising first thing in the morning! This will only make you uncomfortable during the workout. During exercise, aim to drink 5 to 8 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes.
Post-Exercise Fuel Options
After exercise, focus on recovery by eating quality protein and carbohydrates. Make it a goal to consume 10 to 20 grams of protein with 20 to 60 grams of carbohydrate to start the recovery process and heal torn muscles.
1. 12 to 16 ounces of 1 percent chocolate milk
2. Yogurt parfait including 6 ounces Greek yogurt, 1 cup berries and a drizzle of honey
3. Turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread, with a large apple
4. Drink 16 to 24 ounces water for every pound of body weight lost during exercise.
Each person will react differently to certain foods. The key is to remember which nutrients are best before, during or after exercise. Carbohydrate gives us fuel (before & during), while protein and healthy fat help most with recovery (post). Find what works for you, make a plan and fuel your exercise well! Don’t forget that recovery is a huge part of performance for each and every athlete, no matter what level.
A Few More Fuel Options
Check out some more examples for pre and post exercise to keep you fueled:
Pre-Exercise Snack (30 min-1 hour before exercise)
• Whole wheat crackers/pretzels & 2% string cheese
• Peanut butter and jelly/honey sandwich & apple slices
• Granola Bar: Kashi or Nature Valley
• Fruit & 2% string cheese
• Bagel w/ peanut butter or bagel w/light cream cheese & yogurt
• Dry trail mix/granola mix: whole grain cereal/granola, nuts and dried fruit
Post-Exercise Meal (Breakfast)
• 2 whole wheat waffles w/2 tbsp. PB, drizzle syrup, 8oz 2% or skim milk
• 2 pieces toast, 2 tbsp. PB, 1 string cheese, 1 fruit
• 250 calorie energy bar, 1 cup skim milk, 1 fruit, small handful nuts
• Protein shake w/banana
• English muffin w/2-3 slices ham, 1 slice 2% cheese, 1 banana, 8-12oz skim milk
Post-Exercise Meal (Lunch)
• 3-6oz fish, 1 sweet or baked potato, 2 cups salad with light dressing, & 1 piece fruit
• 1 whole wheat pita or flat wrap with 4oz chicken, ¼ c 2% cheese, lettuce/tomato, & mustard with 1 medium banana or 20-25 grapes
• Peanut butter and jelly/honey sandwich, baked chips or fruit, & low-fat milk
• Turkey & 2% cheese sandwich on whole grain bread & yogurt w/ ¼ cup granola mixed in
• Chicken Quesadilla: 1 whole wheat tortilla (broiled in oven for 2 min per side) with 3oz lean, skinless chicken & ¼ c 2% cheese, 10-12 baked multi-grain tortilla chips & 1 cup fruit salad
Check out our full meal plans, created by our STYR Registered Dietitians right inside the subscription model of the STYR Labs app!
If you are interested to hear more and receive personalized nutrition, check out STYR’s app, fitness tracker and suite of connected smart devices. Through the platform, you can track and log activity, food, hydration, sleep, nutrition, mood and more to personalize your nutrition needs based on data, science and access to registered dietitians, nutritionists and personal trainers.
Please note that this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. We insist that you always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical/health condition or treatment and before initiating a new health care regime. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the STYR app or on www.MyNutritioniQ.com.