How to Fuel Your Body Before & After Exercise

From the Show: HER
Summary: Busting all the myths of carbs, protein, and fat in your diet.
Air Date: 3/26/15
Duration: 10
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pamela Peeke, MD
Guest Bio: Nancy Clark, MS, RD
nancy clarkNancy Clark is a registered dietitian (RD) and board certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD). She offers personalized, one-on-one sports nutrition counseling to casual exercisers and competitive athletes in the Boston area. She teaches her clients how to have more energy, lose undesired body fat, and enjoy a winning sports diet.

Nancy's "how to" books on nutrition for sports and exercise, including her best selling Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for new runners, marathoners, soccer players and bicyclists are popular resources. They include tips on day to day eating and how to lose weight without starving yourself.
  • Book Title: Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook
How to Fuel Your Body Before & After Exercise
Before, during, and after a workout your body needs adequate fuel.

However, if you're someone who's just recently made working out a regular habit, it can be confusing as to which foods help aid in energy, and which ones might be slowing you down.

It's important to first understand that your body is different than your best friend's, your sister's, and the other women that surround you. Your body may need more (or less) food than other women, which may be something you need to get used to.

So, what are some foods that you need to fuel your body before a workout?

First, you want to make sure you've eaten at least one to four hours before you've worked out. If you're working out on either a full or empty stomach, it can cause cramping, nausea and for you to not work out with your best effort.

The best food you need to fuel your active muscles are carbohydrates. Now, before you go off to an Italian restaurant and load up on pasta, there is a better way to get your carbs, such as such as fruits, energy bars, or certain drinks.

What other types of foods should you consider eating to help aid in your physical exercise activities?

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, shares why it's so important to have the right fuel before and after your workout for maximum results.

RadioMD Presents: HER Radio | Original Air Date: March 26, 2015
Hosts: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD

Dr. Pam Peeke, New York Times best-selling author and founder of the Peeke Performance Center, and Michelle King Robson, leading women's advocate, entrepreneur and founder of EmpowHER.com host the show everyone's talking about. It's time for HER Radio.

PAM: Hi. I'm Dr. Pam Peeke. Michelle's off today. Alright. You want to get up and you want to start getting active, too. Well, good for you. Rock on! Uh oh. But, what you are supposed to eat to fuel your body before and after exercise?

Our "go to" registered dietician is Nancy Clark, a nationally renowned registered dietician in sports medicine, especially. She is award-winning. I know there's a new award in there, too, Nancy, and a regular here on HER Radio. Her book is Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, literally a bible for anyone out there who wants to know how to be able to eat well as they stay active.

So, Nancy, welcome to HER Radio again. Here's your question: What foods should you be eating to fuel your body before and after exercise? You and I know that people are out there eating like they're going to do an Iron Men when all they're doing is a walk around the block. So, what should they be doing? Let's start with before you exercise.

NANCY: It's so true, but some people are Iron Men, so we can address two groups: ones that are just walking around the block and ones that are Iron Men. The folks that are walking around the block, if they have their breakfast and walk around the block; or if they have their breakfast and go to the gym, then they'll be plenty fueled. Or, maybe they want to have part of their breakfast before they do their workout and then the rest of it afterward. But, many people, when they exercise, really don't exercise very hard.

PAM: Hmm. That's interesting. I think that you know from studies out there that people overestimate how much they really exercise and the intensity of their exercise. This is not true of athletes. This is your average, wonderful person just like so many of our HER listeners out there. So, what's the magic fuel? Alright. I'm going to get up in the morning and I want to be able to have appropriate fuel on board. What's the mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat?

NANCY: Well, I talk more about food because people eat food and not carbs and protein and fat, but they do want some carbs to fuel their muscles and their brain and they want some protein to build and repair their muscles. So, generally, for the fitness exerciser, if they're exercising in the morning, what I recommend is that they have a little bit of their breakfast before they work out because they don't want to have too much food that's uncomfortable in their stomach. Then, they refuel afterwards with the rest of their breakfast. So, maybe they have banana beforehand and then cereal and milk afterwards. Or, maybe they have an English muffin and peanut butter beforehand and some yogurt and fruit afterwards. So, if you can back your workout into a meal, then you don't end up taking in extra calories. For people that work out in the afternoon, sometimes they fuel up beforehand and then they refuel afterwards. Then, they go eat a great big dinner. It's like, "Why don't they just back their workout into their dinner?" Then, they've automatically recovered there. But, the question is, people need to fuel up beforehand so they enjoy exercise, but how many of them really deplete themselves and need to refuel afterwards?

PAM: Well, how would you answer that question? I mean, a lot of people think that a one-hour spin class they should go out and refuel like mad. What do you think?
NANCY: It depends on how hard they've spun and, also when they're spinning again. If people are exercising within the next 6 hours, then certainly they need to rapidly refuel, but if they do a spin class on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, they've got plenty of time to refuel. Certainly, the benefits of eating something afterwards are that it curbs the appetite because if you don't eat, say within the half an hour afterwards, probably by an hour, the cookie monster's going to tap on your shoulder. So, we have to look at why you're eating and if they could more easily back that spin class, just time it so that it just backs right into their dinner. Then that could save them some calories that they might otherwise think they need.

PAM: Alright. So then, here's the question that comes up all the time. Actually, Gretchen Reynolds, in The New York Times, did a summary of this study that came out and basically, the question is, "Should you eat at all before you do your morning workout?" If you're looking for optimal fat loss, which so many people are doing out there. They're trying to weight manage and they're trying to drop excess body fat, they're questioning, "Well, gosh, should I have anything before I go out? Should I let it go?" Because the study actually indicated that if you didn't have anything to eat, you actually, over time, dropped more body fat. It was a small study. It was men only. Big surprise, right? But, what is your thought about that?

NANCY: That's an individual conversation. Some people eat a lot of food at the end of the day and when they wake up, they really don't need to eat anything before they go to the gym because they're living off the fat of the land from the night before. Other people might have a diet dinner at 6:00 at night and then, by 7:00 the next morning, they have low blood sure and if they go to the gym and don't eat anything, their workout might not be very much fun.

So, I come across a lot of dieters who think they really shouldn't eat before they exercise. It's like, "I'm exercising to burn off calories. Why should I eat something beforehand? That's really counterproductive." Well, my answer is, the "E" in "exercise" is for "enjoyment" and to exercise on empty is really not very much fun. Is that really sustainable for the rest of your life? So, again, it's a conversation.

There's not one answer that fits everybody, but I generally encourage my clients to separate exercise and weight. I want them to exercise for the right reasons—to feel good; feel good about themselves; muscles; bone; heart disease; cancer. All sorts of good reasons and not just to burn off calories because people in a hospital lose weight and they aren't exercising.

PAM: Precisely.

NANCY: So much of weight reduction relates to creating a calorie deficit.

PAM: I love that. That's a really good point. What foods should you not have before you work out?

NANCY: Well, you don't want to have things that settle heavily and feel like a brick in your stomach. Probably, if you have a heavy cheese omelet with bacon on the side and buttered toast, it would probably be a pretty heavy meal to lug through a four-mile jog. So, the portion makes the difference. So, eating 300 calories is a lot different than eating 600, 700, 800 calories and the kinds of food make a difference. So that fatty foods tend to sit heavily whereas lighter foods like a banana or an English muffin, a piece of toast, a bowl of oatmeal or something, tend to be more easily digested.

PAM: I do a little combination myself. I do some peanut butter. You know that's my "go to", Nancy. Some peanut butter on a couple pieces of butter.

NANCY: Precisely.

PAM: It just goes down and it doesn't give me that feeling that my stomach now resides in another state. You know? That "bleh". You know what's also interesting is that if you're doing endurance exercise, especially, you really don't need a boatload of food there, you just need strategic food. That's why, honestly, any of the nut butters, I have found to be really, really helpful. I'm thinking back to, you know, you're up there in Boston. We're all talking to Nancy Clark, the nationally renowned registered dietician, and I remember just not having that much, honestly. A bagel and peanut butter before I even took off and did my thing.

Alright. So, Nancy, you've helped us answer the question, "What food should you be eating to fuel your body before and after exercise?" Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook is the book you've got to go out and get. NancyClarkRD.com is the website.

Nancy, I can't thank you enough for helping us understand this wonderful, fabulous topic of how to eat around exercise.

I'm Dr. Pam Peeke with Michelle King Robson. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.And, you'd better stay well.