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Published On: Mon, Aug 20th, 2012

REFUELING THE RIGHT WAY


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-By Erin Macdonald, R.D. 

What kind of exerciser are you? Do you workout every day or only on the weekends? Are you more of a cardio junkie or a cross-fitter?  Do you hit the weights hard or hardly hit them?

Do you feel like you have enough energy to get you through your workouts? Are you seeing the results you want to see? Did you know that when you eat and what you eat are two key components to helping you achieve your weight, body composition, and health goals?

 WHEN TO EAT

When you exercise, you burn a combination of fat and glycogen for fuel. The harder you work, the more calories you burn—calories which come mostly from glycogen. Because glycogen, which is stored in the liver and muscle, is stored in a finite amount, eventually you will run out of it (as well as energy).  At that point your body will shift to using primarily body fat for fuel, but most people don’t work out long enough or hard enough to see this shift happen. With glycogen stores low or nearly empty at the end of your workout session, it’s imperative that you take immediate action to replenish those storage tanks so that you can recover and have enough energy to hit the gym the next day.

Once you’ve finished exercising, you have a 30 minute window in which maximum glycogen re-synthesis takes place. Eating a meal with enough calories and the right balance of carbohydrates and protein will allow for this synthesis to take place. About two hours post-workout and again at 4 hours post-workout, additional meals similar in nature to the first post-workout meal should be consumed to continue with glycogen re-synthesis.

WHAT TO EAT

Now that you know how important post-workout meal timing is for proper refueling, equally important is consuming meals with the correct ratio of carbohydrates to protein.  For a cardio-heavy workout, the ideal post-workout meal will have a ratio of three to four parts carbohydrate to one part protein. This will ensure the maximum amount of glycogen will be synthesized. If your workout was focused on weight training, then you need a post-workout meal with a ratio of one part carbohydrate to one part protein to make sure there is enough fuel and protein to repair muscle fiber tissues that have been broken down during training.

BEST FOOD CHOICES

For ideal performance during your workout, and to realize the health and body composition goals that you desire, a diet that focuses on clean, whole, and real foods is one that will get you there quickly. Clean foods are those that are free of pesticides, hormones, chemicals, and any kind of artificial colorings and flavorings. Whole foods are foods that are in their original form or minimally processed. Real foods are just that – real. Candy, cookies, soda, hot dogs, and fried cheese sticks are not real food (nor are they clean and whole).  Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry, grass-fed beef, water, herbs, spices, and tea – these are clean, whole, and real foods.

 SIMPLE REFUELING IDEAS
  • Steel-cut oat or old-fashioned oats cooked in nonfat milk (or soy milk), cinnamon, and chopped fresh fruit, topped with sliced raw almonds
  • Yogurt parfait: Mix nonfat plain Greek yogurt with cinnamon and honey or agave nectar, and layer in a glass with fresh organic berries, chopped walnuts, and granola
  • Brown rice, black beans, fresh salsa, and guacamole bowl
  • Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread and piled high with vegetables and mustard
  • Vegetarian or turkey chili
  • Whole grain English muffin topped with almond butter and sliced bananas or apples
  • Baked sweet potato, a piece of wild Alaskan salmon, roasted vegetables
   SUPER SMOOTHIE
  • 1 tbs. ground flax seed
  • ¼ cup old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup tart cherry juice
  • ½ banana
  • 1 cup frozen organic strawberries
  • ½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  1. Mix flax seed and oats in a blender until smooth. Add remaining ingredients to blender and puree until smooth. Add additional ice for a thicker consistency.
Breakfast sandwich
  • 2 slices whole grain bread
  • 1 egg + 2 egg whites
  • 1 tbs. parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup chopped spinach
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped mushrooms
  • 2 tbs. diced canned green chilies
  • Salsa (red or green)
  • Optional: hot sauce
  • Sea salt and pepper
  1. Place the bread in a toaster oven and toast to desired doneness. Remove to a plate when done.
  2. Coat a nonstick skillet with olive oil cooking spray and place over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onion and mushrooms and sauté 4 minutes; add the spinach and green chilies, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and pepper and sauté 2 minutes.
  3. While the vegetables are cooking, crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk together with the cheese. Add the eggs to the pan with the vegetables. Cook until the eggs are set on the bottom. Flip and cook an additional 1 minute. Remove and place on one slice of bread.
  4. Add salsa of choice and optional hot sauce to the eggs. Top with other slice of bread. Eat.
  5. Alternatives: instead of bread, use a whole grain tortilla and make a breakfast burrito.

 

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