The Best Fuel for Your Body to Power Through Workouts

shutterstock_245340244Neglecting to fuel your body before a workout deprives you of the energy necessary for peak performance. Whether you’re lifting weights or heading out for a run, it’s important to create a balanced pre-workout meal.

To really take your fitness to the next level you’ll want to ingest the best fuel for your body to power through even the toughest workouts.

1. Drink Up

Many athletes find it easier to digest a liquid meal before exercising. Others swear by their morning oatmeal. Whether you choose solid or liquid workout fuel, make sure that you also drink water. Having water before, during and after exercise balances your body to prevent the dangerous effects of dehydration.

2. Avoid the Hype

When choosing what to eat and drink before working out, steer clear of commercial preparations that contain refined sugars, artificial colors and unnatural flavorings. These concoctions may give you an initial boost, but over time the chemical junk will weigh down your body and possibly lead you to experience health problems.

3. Carbs Over Protein

The recommended ratio of macronutrients for pre-workout foods is a 3-to-1 balance of carbohydrates to protein. Save the protein powders for after you exercise; carbs are what your body needs for readily available fuel. Choose a combination of quick-releasing sugars, such as fruit or dried fruit, to provide you with a burst of energy, and sustain that energy with a complex carbohydrate, such as oats.

4. Add Some Fat

A small amount of fat from a healthy source, such as hemp seeds, chia seeds or ground flax seeds, helps to transport the nutrients in your pre-workout meal to your cells. Although these foods provide essential fatty acids and protein, they are harder to digest than carbohydrates and should be kept to a minimum before workouts.

5. Replace What You Lose

You can lose quite a lot of water and electrolytes when you’re working out, especially in warm temperatures. Drinking water before and during exercise helps offset this, but you also need to replenish minerals, such as sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium, to support healthy cell function. Give yourself a head start by including dark leafy greens, bananas or dulse power in your chosen workout fuel.

6. Go Green

In addition to electrolytes, greens provide antioxidants to combat the oxidative stress that can occur during strenuous exercise. Choose kale, spinach and other deep green veggies for extra nutrition and protection.

7. Time it Right

When you consume your pre-workout meal is also important. The “right” time to eat varies from person to person, but for most people it’s a good idea to eat between a half an hour and an hour before exercising. This ensures that nutrients and energy are present throughout your workout and prevents potential digestive distress. If you exercise later in the day after you’ve had lunch or dinner instead of a specific pre-workout meal, wait two to four hours to allow your body to break the food down.

The key to fueling an active lifestyle is to choose whole, fresh foods for every meal, not just what you eat before working out. Keep your focus on healthy options and track your performance to see the benefits.

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