Maximize your workouts with proper nutrition

By Laura Schmidt RD, LD

There are more sports nutrition products available today than ever, but what is the best way to maximize the effects of your workout? Workout nutrition can be broken down into three segments: pre, during, and post-workout. Nutritional recommendations also vary if you are training aerobically, with oxygen, or anaerobically, without oxygen. You can also think of aerobic workouts as low-intensity exercise that lasts longer than two minutes. Such workouts would include long-distance running or biking. On the other hand, anaerobic workouts are those exercises that are high-intensity and short duration. Exercises like sprints or weight lifting are anaerobic. All of these variables have different nutritional needs.

Pre-workout nutrition should consist of carbohydrates and protein. This is a time when you want to quickly fuel the body, so fats should be limited because they slow down digestion. For endurance training, you should consume a good amount of carbohydrates prior to the event. The optimal amount of carbohydrates in a meal is 1 gram per kilogram (1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds) of body weight for every hour the meal is away from the event, with four hours being the optimal time for a pre meal. For example, a meal four hours prior to a workout should consist of 4 grams per kilogram, three hours should have 3 grams per kilogram, and so on. If you are unable to have a meal prior, consume 30 grams of easily digested carbohydrates at least five minutes before, such as a banana or energy chews.

Aerobic athletes have been shown to benefit from nutrition during workouts. If your workout lasts more than one hour you should consume 30 – 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour, and for those events lasting over two and a half hours you should consume 80 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Sources of easily digestible carbohydrates would include bananas, energy gels, pretzels, or plain bagels. One medium, 7-inch banana or an energy gel will give you 25 30 grams of carbohydrates. Athletes should consume carbohydrates that come in different forms such as glucose, sucrose, maltodextrin, etc. Pure fructose should be avoided as it takes more time to be utilized for energy. Water absorption is enhanced when sports drinks include two to three different carbohydrate sources.

Post-workout nutrition is key for refueling and to kick-start muscle repair. For the first four hours post exercise or race, you should consume around 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per hour. One of the most effective strategies is to consume small amounts of carbohydrate every 15 minutes. Anaerobic training has higher requirements for protein, as more muscle damage occurs during those workouts. All athletes should consume 4 ounces of meat or 20 grams to 25 grams of whey protein within 60 minutes of the workout.

Both types of athletes can benefit from consuming branched chain amino acids (BCAA) prior to exercise, and tart cherry juice post-workout. BCAAs have been shown to prevent muscle damage during exercise, limit immune suppression, and kick-start muscle growth. A great, natural source of BCAAs would be chicken meat, which can supply the same amount of BCAA sold in supplement form in only four ounces of meat. BCAAs supplements should contain at least 2 grams of leucine. Tart cherry juice will help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, allowing for quicker recovery. The recommendation is to consume 12 ounces post workout. Try this quick and easy power protein idea to help boost your protein intake as part of your next post recovery snack!

Protein Power Snack

Serves 4 (1 egg and 1/4 cup edamame each)

All you need:

4 large eggs

1 cup edamame in-the-pod

All you do:

1. To hard-boil eggs: Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook at the barest simmer for 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat, pour out hot water and cover the eggs with ice-cold water. Let stand until cool enough to handle before peeling.

2. To cook edamame: Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a pot fitted with a steamer basket. Add edamame, cover, and steam until the beans are tender, about 2 minutes.

3. Serve the hard-boiled eggs with the edamame for a protein snack!

Tips: Season with ground pepper or try adding salsa to your hardboiled egg!

Nutrition Facts per serving: 110 calories, 7g fat, 2g saturated fat, 187mg cholesterol, 64mg sodium, 3g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 1g sugar, 9g protein.

Source: adapted from EatingWell, Inc.

The information is not intended as medical advice.

Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Laura Schmidt is a registered dietitian representing Hy-Vee as a nutrition expert promoting healthy eating throughout the co