When it comes to physical activity, the focus is often placed on training to perform your best; however, effective training requires energy. Whether you’re a competitive athlete or a recreational exerciser, fueling your body properly can optimize your physical performance. Incorporating the right nutrients can maximize your speed, strength, and agility; shorten your recovery time; prevent stomach discomfort during activity; and reduce your risk of injury and illness. You should always prioritize consuming proper nutrients before, during, and after physical activity.
Before you begin, fuel your body with easily digestible foods that provide energy. If you have at least two hours before starting activity, grab a balanced snack with protein and carbohydrates and a fruit or vegetable. This could be a half sandwich and an apple or hummus with baked pita chips and carrot sticks. If you have less than two hours before activity, skip the protein — it takes longer to digest and could cause an upset stomach. Instead, reach for carbohydrates and a fruit or vegetable, such as a granola bar and a small glass of juice.
During activity, staying hydrated is key. Water is sufficient for activity lasting less than one hour. If you’re exercising for more than one hour or at a high intensity, temperature, humidity, or altitude, consider a sports drink. This will help hydrate the body more effectively by replacing carbohydrates and electrolytes lost in sweat, as well as provide energy. To stay hydrated during exercise, drink two or three large gulps (around 4 fluid ounces) every 15 to 20 minutes.
Once your cooldown is complete, focus on replenishing the fluids and energy lost while active. After activity, aim for a snack within 30 minutes to one hour and/or a balanced meal within a few hours. These should contain carbohydrates and some protein to aid energy storage and promote muscle building. A fruit and yogurt smoothie or a glass of chocolate milk are great snack options. If you prefer something like a sports bar, look for one with a 4-1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. Whatever you choose, be sure to include water to rehydrate.
SAGE’s Performance Spotlight® program — created specifically for active individuals — helps you fuel throughout all phases of activity. It offers mealtime guidance, on-the-go meals and snacks, and house-made sports bars, sports drinks, and protein smoothies with simple ingredients designed to optimize performance. To find Performance picks, look for the runner icon on signs in the dining hall, as well as on menus online and in the Touch of SAGE® app.