Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
Whether you go to the gym a few times a week, jog the neighborhood every morning or are training for a triathlon, proper nutrition is essential for optimal performance, energy levels and recovery. While it is important to fuel and hydrate your body throughout the whole day, knowing what to eat and when to eat around exercise can help you have the energy you need to train and perform your best.
Medjool dates are an excellent source of carbohydrate pre-, during- and post-workout. They can help fuel your exercise routine while also providing your body with other essential nutrients it needs to recover like antioxidants and potassium. Plus, they are a simple, convenient, ready-to-eat snack that you can throw in your gym bag.
Consume a pre-workout meal to provide your body with energy for training. The meal should be:
Rich in complex carbohydrates (think oatmeal, quinoa or brown rice)
Moderate in lean protein (think eggs, chicken or dairy)
Lower in fat (think nuts and oils) and fiber (think broccoli and cauliflower)
Consume plenty of fluids pre-workout, at least 16-20 ounces (think water and sports drinks)
Pre-workout meal ideas:
Oatmeal with Medjool dates and nuts paired with low-fat Greek yogurt and 16 - 20 ounces of water
Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole grain bread with avocado, lettuce and tomato paired with 2-3 Medjool dates and 16 - 20 ounces of water
Cashew Chicken Stir Fry on brown rice or quinoa and 16 - 20 ounces of water
If you feel hungry, add a snack of carbohydrates with a small amount of protein (this snack is not necessary if you consumed a meal close to the workout).
Pre-workout snack ideas:
2 Medjool dates with nut butter and 5-10 ounces of water
Whole grain granola bar with a string cheese and 5-10 ounces of water
Energy bar with 5-10 grams of protein and 5-10 ounces of water
This snack also applies to those individuals who workout early in the morning
It is important to consume a carbohydrate-rich snack prior to exercise to provide the body with energy
Because you have not consumed fluid all night, try to drink 16-20 ounces of water before starting exercise
During exercise, the main focus is to stay hydrated.
For those that train longer than 90 minutes, the sports nutrition recommendation is to add 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour.
Post-workout nutrition is focused on recovery. Think of recovery as having 3 R’s: Replenish, Rebuild and Rehydrate.
Simple carbohydrate is the best immediately post-workout because it breaks down quickly and promotes recovery at a faster rate.
High-quality protein is essential immediately post-workout because it provides the amino acids necessary to promote repairing muscle fibers. While all proteins can fit in the post-workout snack, whey protein is the quickest digesting protein and naturally contains the highest content of leucine, a branch chain amino acid that independently has been shown to stimulate muscle resynthesis after a workout.
Immediate post-workout snack ideas:
Low-fat chocolate milk
Vanilla Greek yogurt with chopped Medjool dates and water
Protein bar and water
Smoothie made with low-fat milk, whey protein, Medjool dates and banana
Maintaining proper hydration is a key component to your overall health and fitness routine. Water helps your body in a variety of ways including:
In fact, depending on age, the human body is comprised of 60-80% water, making it essential that you’re hydrating continuously.
Electrolytes are an essential part of hydration, specifically sodium and potassium. The average person loses three times the amount of sodium in sweat as potassium, and salty sweaters can lose even more. Here are some ways to ensure you are consuming enough electrolytes to support your exercise: