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Better Nutrition for Aerobics

How much water should I drink during a 45 minute jog? What do I need to make it through my entire workout without feeling tired?  When should I refuel my body after my workout?  These are just a few examples of questions that active individuals should ask to maximize their workouts.  And here are the answers!

Fluids First
Choose water (almost) always! Water has several important roles. It helps balance pH and buffers the effects of lactic acid after intense exercise. That means you can work out harder and likely longer! Even a dehydration level of two percent can impair performance, and a three to five percent level can put serious stress on your cardiovascular system.

In general, the active adult female should consume about 12 cups (96 oz.) of fluid a day and adult males should consume about 16 cups (128 oz.) of fluid a day. These numbers can vary from person to person. And you do get some hydration credit for eating water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. If you are concerned about your fluid intake/losses during exercise, weigh yourself before and after activity. For every pound lost, drink two to three  cups of fluid.

To get the best results, try to drink 2 cups of fluid two to three hours before exercise. During exercise, drink six to eight oz. every 10 to 20 minutes.  In hot, humid weather listen to your body and drink a bit more than the recommended amount if you think you need to.  Electrolyte replacement (think sodium, potassium, etc.) can be important for those exercising for longer than 90 minutes.  Sports drinks are a great choice for those endurance athletes.

Energy = Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the primary energy source during moderate to intense exercise.  Strive to get 45-65 percent of daily calories from carbohydrate. A higher carbohydrate diet is associated with better workouts due to greater time to exhaustion.

What carbohydrates are ideal?

  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Dairy and diary alternatives products
  • Beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and soy products

Most people do well if they take in energy foods (aka carbohydrates) 1-2 hours before exercise. It depends on the individual and the intensity of the workout. The only athletes that need to think about eating during a workout are those planning on going longer than 90 minutes. If so, the recommendation is to 30-60 grams per hour in easy to digest carbohydrates. Sport drinks, gels, bars and simple foods like bananas or crackers can help meet that need.

What About Protein and Fat?
We need protein for muscle repair. Typically, aerobic exercise has less impact on protein breakdown than resistance exercise, but inadequate protein can certainly hinder  performance.  Protein intake should be approximately 10 to 35 percent of daily calories. Most people easily meet this need with chicken, turkey, fish, beans, nuts or low fat dairy consumed in reasonable portions throughout the day.

Protein can be helpful right after an intense workout in combination with carbohydrate (3 to 1 carbohydrate to protein ratio).  Some athletes use chocolate milk because it is the least expensive way to get in that ratio along with a little hydration as well!

Finally, there’s fat. We need it, but some sources are better than others.  It is recommended that 20 to 35 percent of daily calories come from quality fats.  Very strict low-fat diets may leave you feeling fatigued and can cause serious health problems.  Choose healthy unsaturated fats like mono- and polyunsaturated.  Sources include oily fish like salmon, avocados, olive and canola oil, and nuts and seeds.

Begin exercise well hydrated and with adequate energy through food. Experiment with different drinks and foods to see which one your body tolerates best. Eat a balanced diet every day and train like a champion for best results!

Article provided by Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services

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