Eat, Train and Succeed!
Poor eating habits can undermine even the best efforts to stay fit. Savvy athletes know that eating the right foods before a workout can give you the necessary fuel to make it through the last ten minutes on the treadmill or through that last set of squats.
Eat carbohydrates for energy
People often assume that the best fuel for exercise—especially strength training—is protein. While protein plays an important role in muscle building and repair, carbohydrates are actually what keep your body energized during long workouts.
Carbohydrates are one of your body’s best fuel sources due to the efficient way they use oxygen. In fact, they use less oxygen for every kilocalorie of energy produced than either fats or proteins, which make them an important part of your diet if you are physically active, especially if you are an endurance athlete. So, how exactly does your body use carbohydrates?
The glycogen stores in your liver and muscles depend on your carbohydrate intake. Your body converts glycogen to glucose (a type of sugar), which your muscles use as a primary source of fuel during exercise. This means that your ability to exercise is limited by the amount of glucose in your body. After about 90 minutes of exercise, your body’s supply of glycogen is completely depleted, which puts you at a risk for “hitting the wall”, or feeling lethargic during your endurance event. If your body doesn’t have enough glycogen to sustain you, it will start to burn fat for energy. Fat burns at a much slower rate than carbohydrates, which will slow you down.
Eat protein for recovery
To repair muscle damage, your body needs protein, which is made up of amino acids, the building blocks for your muscles. An adequate supply of protein will help your muscles recover from workout stress, especially if you engage in weight-bearing exercise, such as weight-training or jogging. Including some protein in your pre-workout meal may help reduce post-exercise muscle soreness.
Eat healthy fats for endurance
Many people try to limit the amount of fat in their diet, but cutting it out completely can actually hinder athletic performance. Fat provides fuel for the body. If your workouts typically last more than an hour, your body uses fats for energy after your glucose supply has been depleted. However, you should keep in mind that some fats are more beneficial for people than others. Studies show that saturated and trans fats raise total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or your “bad” cholesterol levels. However, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in many plant-based foods and oils, play a critical role in your body by helping to regulate oxygen, hormone restoration, cardiovascular health, and immune system integrity.