As warmer weather finally arrives, more and more people will be heading outdoors and increasing their activities. Supplementing your body with the right nutrients will help you get the most out of your workouts and maximize your results. Here are 4 key nutrients to keep an eye on while strengthening your workout regimen.
The amount of calories you need depends on the type and amount of exercise you do. However, an adequate diet will ensure you’re getting the right amount of energy before exercising and equipped with the building blocks you need to recover. If your goal is not to lose weight, you will need to replenish the calories burned to maintain the weight. If you’re trying to lose weight, find the sweet spot where you’re not replenishing all the energy you’re expending, but you’re also not letting your body run out.
Low-carb diets are still popular today, but if you’re exercising regularly, it’s not wise to cut back on carbs. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel when exercising. Cut down too much and you’ll most likely have to shorten your workout. Try adding a good source of carbohydrates to your pre-workout meal or snack. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 15 grams of carbohydrates in workouts that are less than 60 minutes, and at least 30 grams if you exceed the hour mark.
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While carbohydrates are the most important pre-workout, protein becomes essential post-workout. For 30 minutes to an hour, after you finish your workout, your body is in major repair mode. During the recovery process, your muscles repair and rebuild – and ultimately, they get stronger. For this process to happen, your body needs amino acids. Most of us already get enough protein in our diets, but if you’re vegan or have dietary restrictions, you may be deficient. To find out how much protein you need as an active adult, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.5.
What Should You Eat?
Before you go out to work out, be sure to eat something. Your pre-workout meal or snack should be high in carbohydrates, low in fiber, and low in fat. If you exercise first thing in the morning, even a small piece of fruit will do. Here are some other ideas:
- Apple and low-fat string cheese
- 1 brown rice cake topped with 1 tablespoon hummus and cucumber slices
- 1 slice whole wheat bread topped with 1 tablespoon all-natural nut butter (such as peanuts or almonds)
- ½ cup cooked oatmeal and ½ cup fruit (like sliced strawberries)
The goal is to achieve a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. Some recovery snack ideas:
- 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt with 1 cup berries
- 2 ounces of turkey, 1 ounce of cheese and apple slices
- Protein smoothie made with 1 scoop of protein powder, low-fat milk or yogurt, and fruit
- Trail mix made from 1/2 ounce nuts, 2 tablespoons dried fruit, and 1/4 cup whole grain cereal
Don’t Forget Water!
Another key essential nutrient for any exercise program is water. You should consider water before, during, and after your workout. Here are the recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine:
- Before exercise: Drink 16-20 fluid ounces of water at least four hours before exercise and 8-12 fluid ounces 10-15 minutes before exercise.
- During exercise: Drink 3-8 fluid ounces of water every 15-20 minutes during exercise. Pure water is enough for up to 60 minutes of exercise. After that, consider supplementing with an electrolyte-enhanced sports drink.
- After exercise: For every pound you lose, drink 20-24 fluid ounces of water.