Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tapping into your Exercise Nutrition

In honor of being asked to give a Sports Nutrition presentation to the Oak Park High School Track team in Southern Cali, I felt it was incredibly important to discuss a part of Nutrition that many times goes unnoticed.  EXERCISE NUTRITION!  Properly fueling your body before, during, and after exercise can make a HUGE difference in your energy levels, performance, endurance, and strength.  But one of the most important aspects to all of us that exercise our bodies often, is SEEING the results we are looking for.  If you don't take care of your body - fueling and replenishing it properly, you may as well consider that work-out useless.  I know that sounds harsh but it's true.  Sometimes we take our bodies for granted.  We expect them to give us what we want in kickboxing, let us go deeper in the yoga stretch, or run that mile faster than the last one.  We find we can push our bodies most of the time but what are we doing to give back?  Are we giving our body the fuel it needs to sustain the energy needed and then recover?  This is when nutrient timing becomes incredibly vital.

Before you begin your work-out, you need to fill up your tank.  You want to make sure there is enough USABLE glucose in your blood stream to provide immediate energy for the start of your work-out.  Have you ever started to exercise and realized your body is lagging behind where you are mentally?  Does it take your body a long time to "catch up" and provide you with the energy you are really looking for?  In most cases, this tends to be the lack of available glucose in your blood stream due to exercising on an empty stomach.  Because of the decreased amount of available glucose, your body starts to break down glycogen, the stored form of carbohydrates in your liver and muscles, and this process takes time.  Therefore, you aren't immediately at the top of your game.

Depending on when you exercise in the day (whether it be in the morning or evening), here are some rules to follow...
  • 3-4 hours before your work-out - have a healthy, balanced meal.  Focus on lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and a small bit of healthy fats.  This meal will increase your glycogen stores which you will be tapping into during your work-out.
  • 30-45 minutes before your work-out - have a carbohydrate rich snack that is easily digested and absorbed.  By the time you start to exercise, the glucose will be ready and available in your blood stream to provide you immediate energy.  Furthermore, it helps lay the groundwork for a faster recovery.
    • Banana (my favorite)
    • Low-fat fruit yogurt
    • Piece of toast with preserves and peanut butter
    • Sports drink/shake
    • Sports bar
    • Fruit smoothie
    • Oatmeal with 100% fruit juice
    • Cereal with low-fat milk
This is the "Energy Phase" of your work-out - when your body is pushing itself, breaking down carbohydrates and fat to provide you with energy.  Giving your body the nutrients it needs during your work-out will spare muscle glycogen & protein, minimize muscle damage, maintain immune function, suppress blood cortisol (stress hormone), and allow you to have a faster recovery.

Depending on the type of exercise you are doing will determine your nutrition supplementation.
  • For exercise less than 60 minutes or low-intensity - Make sure to stay hydrated.  When I am doing a class at the gym, I normally fill up my water bottle with an electrolyte mix such as Activate http://www.activatedrinks.com/ and continue to keep hydrating throughout the class.  That is the most important aspect - STAY HYDRATED!
  • For endurance exercise between 60-90 minutes (or more) - You will want to replace the glucose you have already used (continuing to spare muscle glycogen as much as your body will allow) and also replace the electrolytes lost (Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Calcium, Magnesium).  Again, hydration is of utmost importance during long endurance exercises.  Consume about 30-60 g/carbohydrate per hour of exercise.
If you do nothing else, please make sure to replenish your body immediately following your work-out.  This is the MOST IMPORTANT and CRITICAL aspect of nutrient timing.  During this stage, the "Anabolic Stage", your body's muscle glycogen levels are depleted, cortisol and other catabolic hormones continue to be released, inflammation is high, and free radicals produced during exercise can attack your muscle cell structure, causing further damage.  On a positive note, when your body is in this stage, your muscle cells are more sensitive to insulin and glucose uptake, which will enhance glycogen synthesis (the making of glycogen stores in your muscles - replacing what you used).  Furthermore, your muscles are primed for the nutrients (amino acids) to help them recover and replenish more quickly.  This will inhibit further muscle damage and bolster the immune system.  Another benefit of having a snack immediately following exercise is you will be less inclined to pig out at the next meal.  You blood sugar will stabilize and you will make healthier choices.  Just don't refuel your tank with crap.

Regardless of what exercise you just finished (Pilates, kickboxing, yoga, running, spinning, walking), you MUST replenish your body!
  • 30-45 minutes immediately following your exercise - Consume a carbohydrate/protein rich snack.  It should be a 2:1 or 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.
    • Fruit Smoothie with Whey Protein powder - Use my shake recipe http://nutritionconcierge.blogspot.com/2010/09/perfect-shake.html
    • Turkey Sandwich with Whole Wheat bread and a small apple
    • Low-fat chocolate milk - Sounds strange but an amazing post-exercise drink
    • Sports drink (Myoplex, Gatorade G2) with sports bar (Luna, Clif, Myoplex) or fruit
    • Scrambled eggs with whole wheat toast and preserves
    • Low-fat cottage cheese with fruit or baked pita chips
    • Cereal with fruit and low-fat milk
About an hour after your post-exercise snack, have a healthy, well-balanced meal - complex carbs, lean protein, healthy fats.  This will continue to promote protein turnover and muscle development.

As I mentioned before, make sure to stay hydrated.  Look at your pee.  If it's bright yellow - drink some more fluids!  A good rule of thumb is 1 ml of liquid (preferably H2O) per 1 calorie or 1/2 oz. to 1 oz. of liquid per pound, per day.  During high intensity exercise, you want to have about 7-10 oz. of water or sports drink every 15-20 minutes.  Afterward, have about 24 oz. per pound of weight lost.

And I promise - you will REALLY start to see results in your body and performance if you make sure to ALWAYS have your Nutrition in place for your work-outs.

Remember to think about it ahead of time!  If you are going to Spinning class and then have to go somewhere immediately afterward, bring a bar with you.  I always have Luna Bars http://www.lunabar.com/ in my car and my gym bag.

Here's to healthy, lean bodies!



  1. Great tips Jill!! Thanks for sharing!!

  2. WoW!! This a fantastic blog to follow! THANK YOU!!


  3. Thank you for your comments! I'm glad you are liking the blog!

  4. Hey Jill! I think you blog is great! Im interested in learning more about the program you are enrolled in at Cal State Northridge. Could you possibly post a link?? Thanks!!