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Different Fuel for Different Workouts

Eating the right thing before lifting weights or jumping on the treadmill can keep you physically strong and mentally engaged from beginning to end. But what you should eat depends on what you plan to do.
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I know the look. It's the wrong food choice look. I've seen many people in my exercise classes get that look on their face a few minutes into class that says, I just ate the wrong food.

Sometimes it's not enough food, sometimes it's too much. Sometimes it's just the food choice. Eating the right thing before lifting weights or jumping on the treadmill can keep you physically strong and mentally engaged from beginning to end. But what you should eat depends on what you plan to do.

Research has shown that there are some no-brainer ways to fuel your muscles before a variety of workouts and assist in your body's recovery afterwards.

Tips on what you should eat when:

A Long Cardio Session -- eat a half hour prior.

-- Keep it liquid -- yogurt or a light smoothie, an apple or banana

-- If you work out on an empty tank, your body will think it is starving and suppress your metabolism, the exact opposite of what you want your body to do during exercise. Eating a light something gives you some fuel to get going and keep going and kicks in that metabolism so that you burn more calories during your time spent.

-- Keep it low calorie -- under 200 calories.

-- Less time to eat before exercising? Eat less. You don't want to slosh.

Afterwards:

-- Lots of water, no need for Gatorade type drinks unless you went 60 minutes plus.

-- A low-fat granola or energy bar

-- More fruit

Long Workouts -- 60 Minutes Plus

-- Select a snack that gives muscles a supply of glucose.

-- Again, if your tank is empty, do not expect to get very far before you sputter to a stop. In the workout world, it's called bonking. That's a non-scientific way of saying that your glucose supplies are drained. Once that happens, it is hard to recover and sometimes, to even finish your planned workout.

-- Lots of H2O, before, during and after. I drink a 12-oz cup immediately before beginning an hour plus workout.

-- Carbohydrates that are good quality and easy to digest -- try a banana, which will leave your GI tract quickly and supply enough glucose to fuel a long workout.

-- Protein. Try yogurt, milk, or nuts to keep blood sugar levels even and prevent a rapid drop in blood sugar from eating those carbs.

-- If you find yourself wanting to quit or your legs become shaky, eat more the next time, until you find the amount that keeps you energized.

Yoga, Stretching, or Tai Chi

Before: You don't need much food and an empty stomach might feel best. All you need is some water.

Strength Training: 30 minutes

-- Before: 2:1 protein to carb is your fuel of choice.

-- After: Rehydrate with water and more protein/carb (2:1). This helps repair and build your muscles.

An All-Day Hike, Cross-Country Ski or 20 mile-plus Cycling Trip

-- Before: To build your glycogen stores, plan ahead:

-- Carbo Load: For a few days before your trip, eat high-carb meals, think whole wheat pasta or brown rice dishes.

-- Water, water, water 3 liters a day. Have a good breakfast before heading out.

-- In addition pack a few energy bars or some nuts to nibble every few hours.

-- Regularly sip water or sports drinks; don't wait until you your mouth is dry.

It's also a good idea to keep a journal on what you eat pre-workout and how you felt afterwards. You will likely start to see a pattern of what fuels rev up your workouts best. Not only is it true that, "You are what you eat." It's also true that you feel how you eat.