The lowdown on eating and drinking during exercise
Our body uses carbohydrates, such as grains, fruits, and veggies as an energy source. These carbohydrates are converted and stored as glycogen (energy) in our muscles. As we start exercising we burn through that stored energy and after approximately a solid hour of working out, we have depleted the vast majority of it and thus need more nutrients to fuel our body so we can continue working out. The main factor which determines when, what and how much fuel we need is the type of exercise that we are doing and how long we are working out for. If you’re going to be doing an Ironman Triathlon, then you’re most definitely going to burn through your stored carbohydrates and you will need to refuel mid-workout or else you just may hit the pavement and that won’t be good for your ego or your body. On the flipside, if you’re walking over an hour, you will most likely be fine and can go a lot longer before burning through your energy reserves.
When it comes down to it, there are some simple rules of thumb to follow in regards to nutrition during your workout. Let’s take a look at the different types of workouts and what food or drinks would be beneficial for you so you can reach your max when exercising.
Shorter Duration Exercise (Under 1 hour):
For the less intense cardio sessions under one hour, you’re fine with just having water and burning through your glycogen stores. However, if you are running hard for almost an hour, pushing everything you’ve got in that cycling class, or just going all out on any cardio machine or exercise routine; having an electrolyte drink will do wonders for you! Fill your workout bottle with some coconut water and if you really dislike that taste, then any low-sugar ready to drink or powder electrolyte drink will do.
High Intensity Strength Training
For the CrossFitters or anyone that is going to be pushing close to their max for their workout session, having electrolytes will be great for maintaining your energy level. Add a BCAA (Branch Chained Amino Acid) drink for these types of workouts and you will notice that you will soon be lifting longer and you will be stronger. They act as another great fuel source! According to the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism, ingestion of BCAA during exercise further increased plasma concentrations of isoleucine, leucine, and valine (essential amino acids) during workouts and throughout recovery after exercise, thus creating more energy and strength.
Longer Duration Exercise (1+ hours):
After you pass the one hour mark, this is where mid-workout nutrition comes into it’s own. Without it you will literally fade and then conk out! For less intense cardio, such as walking, all you will need is something small like a banana which is high in the energy source Pottasium which gets into the blood stream very quickly and it is an excellent energy source. Make sure you stay hydrated too, replacing any fluids lost through sweating and respiration.
For the long-distance runners, triathletes, cyclists, or anyone doing any form of high-intensity cardio for more than one hour, your body will thank you by adding some mid-workout nutrition. Of course, there are energy gels or bars which are small and convenient that you can blast into your body while doing this type of exercise, however these gels may be convenient but are typically not the most natural energy source and usually require large amounts of water to assimilate (absorb & convert) the energy provided. An unusual yet great energy source for mid-workout nutrition is dates. Dates are a fast-absorbing carbohydrate that are high in glucose and potassium, they break down quickly, spike insulin levels, and transport sugar throughout the bloodstream to feed the muscles when they need it the most. Typically, for men 80-100 grams per hour is ideal and for women 60-90 grams per hour is needed. Basically, that’s similar to having 2 bananas and 2 cups of a sports drink for men and only one banana and 1-1.5 cups of a sports drink for women.
High Intensity Strength Training
For anyone pushing past one hour during strength training (not too common), you will thank yourself for adding some mid-workout nutrition. Aside from staying hydrated with a solid electrolyte or BCAA drink, feel free to add in sports gels, dates, cherries, bananas, homemade energy bars, etc. Adding any of these energy sources will prevent you from feeling fatigued and will give you that much needed spike of energy to do a few more exercises. Just don’t over do it with the sugars!
As you can see, it all depends on the type of exercise and how long you will be working out in order to determine the amount and type of food to eat. As a rule of thumb simple (fast acting) energy sources are what is required. The amount of carbohydrates that you should consume will also vary based on your overall carbohydrate availability, physical size, fitness level, and weather conditions. The next time you exercise, remember to stay hydrated and refuel when needed. Go reach for new heights and perform like a superhero; you can thank us later!
Author: David Kuch
Author Bio: David Kuch is a Nutrition Souq Fitness Champion Editor. He is a certified personal trainer and has completed a Masters of Business Administration Degree, Specialized in Sport Management. With over 10 years of experience as a personal trainer, both independently and in big box chains, David is experienced in fitness training, healthy habits, wellness, functional fitness, and nutrition.