One of the most important things when it comes to exercise is fueling your workout. Being able to tell how your body responds to certain foods, and what types help you perform better is a personal journey that a lot of people go though, since no two people are alike.
A common misconception around ‘health’ and food in general is that for some reason , carbs are a food that make you fat, and your body ‘can’t process them as quickly’. So avoid carbs. Don’t eat them. This couldn’t be more wrong in regards to working out, exercising, and having more energy. Carbs are energy. And they’re really important for helping your body become better and fitter.
When I was in high school, I, much to my own resistance, joined the high school swim team. I wasn’t fit by any means, and I was definitely a late bloomer in that my stamina and personal strength was way under the ball compared to other classmates. Regardless, I joined the swim team, went to practice every day, and despite getting really tired, I somewhat enjoyed it. It did have a lot of things I didn’t enjoy, like running bleachers, doing a bunch of pushups, and various other exercises before even getting into the pool. One thing that has stuck with me though, was what we did before every swim meet: Pasta Parties™.
Pasta parties were an event coordinated by our coaches where our whole team would go to a teammates house the night before a meet, and have a potluck event that consisted of every type of pasta imaginable. It was to help us fuel up before the meet, and as I’ve learned later, restore our glycogen stores.
Pasta remains one of my favorite meals to eat nearly daily. It helps prepare me for my morning workout the next day, and also helps in recovery when your body is rebuilding itself from your exercise.
I know this definitely isn’t for everyone, but greek yogurt remains one of my favorite meals to help prepare myself before a workout. It’s full of protein, and there are tons of possibilities in how you can prepare it. My personal favorite, and almost daily breakfast meal, is:
- 3 tablespoons of peanut butter
- 1 cup of plain greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup of plain oats
- a light dab of honey for sweetness.
In the past I’ve microwaved the peanut butter a little bit just to make it easier to mix, but now I generally just throw all these ingredients in a bowl, and mix it up as my breakfast, or quick meal to have before a long bike ride.
Fueling your workout… while working out
On long runs or cycling rides, it’s recommended that you eat while working out if it is any longer than 30 minutes. This means eating at about the 30 minute mark, and then at least once every hour to help your body in continuing to produce the energy that its using.
There are tons of expensive “gels” and “professional fuel” type things that you can eat while on these types of workouts, or if you’re even just at the gym for an extended amount of time. I, however, greatly disagree with spending $10 on the equivalent of a handful of gummy bears.
On the Global Cycling Network, a resource I go to often for everything from bike maintenance to training for long rides, they talk about the use of energy gels. And while they obviously state how useful they are, one thing they recommend is using things like fruit, home made pancakes, and even bonbons and fruit snacks to help fuel your rides. It’s obviously not as glamorous or cool to wolf down a pancake in the middle of the race, but it’s much more feasible, and generally more cost effective than trying to find the perfect Gatorade™® PowerGels or Powerbars.
I personally tend to bring a bag or two of just plain peanuts, a sandwich with peanut butter and honey, and possibly a banana to help fuel myself on these longer rides. I find these items tastier, more filling, and it’s much easier to use what’s around the house then trying to remember to stock up on energy gels.