TOM DODGE | DISPATCH
Nicole Carroll now eats before working out, including morning sessions at the Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club in Powell.
When it comes to exercise, carbs are your friends.
Experts say carbohydrates are what your body prefers to burn as you kick out 90?minutes of spinning, your morning run or your weight-training session at the gym.
If you’re on a long-haul workout training for an event — or if you just like to push yourself for a couple of hours at a time — you need to keep those carbs coming, through sports drinks or another energy source.
And after you’re finished, you shouldn’t go longer than an hour before giving your body rebound fuel, ideally carbohydrates and protein. Chocolate milk or soymilk, for instance, or some trail mix.
“Eating that small snack before you go and exercise is like topping off your fuel tank so you’re ready to rock and roll,” said Jonathan Scott, an avid distance runner and dietitian who is working on his doctorate in health and rehabilitation sciences at Ohio State University.
Sports dietitian Dawn Holmes said she generally recommends a small snack 30 minutes to an hour before a workout.
“A handful of pretzels, granola, a banana, an apple — something that will sit well, digest well and sort of give you a quick burst of energy,” said Holmes, who works at MAX Sports Medicine and is with the OhioHealth sports-medicine program.
That’s especially true if you’re exercising first thing in the morning or it has been six hours since lunch. You’ll be sluggish on an empty stomach compared with the guy on the next treadmill who opted for pre-workout yogurt.
Holmes said a pre-workout snack can help you exercise more intently, burn more calories, lift more weights and gain more strength and endurance.
All from a handful of pretzels.
Nicole Carroll of Powell said she likes to do just about any physical activity, and a lot of it, but until recently she often left home for her pre-sunup workouts without eating anything.
After she went through an OhioHealth runner’s clinic, she discovered that a handful of graham crackers makes a big difference.
Now, when she gets to the gym or goes for a run, “I’m ready. It’s just a little kick-start, and it’s all I really need,” said Carroll, who
She also learned that she needed to take in a lot more water for the amount of sweating she was doing. In the middle of longer workouts, she eats some gel or a granola bar and keeps the water going throughout.
On race days, she eats a big, carb-heavy breakfast at least an hour in advance.
Regardless of what exercise you do, it’s important to put the proper fuel in your tank, Scott said. He recommends foods low in fiber and fat to ease digestion.
“We suggest that people experiment with foods and find out what combinations of things work out best for them,” Scott said.
If you’re training for a distance event, you should stick with what you know worked during training,
Kate Mone, a dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s sports-health program, said those exercising for more than an hour should take in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. A 16-ounce sports drink gives you about 30.
Those who exercise more intensely should shoot for closer to the 60-gram mark, Mone said.
Without adequate carbs to burn, “Your body has to resort to some other type of fuel source.”
Sometimes that’s fat, but sometimes that’s muscle, especially during intense exercise. And if you are hungry going into a workout, your body is especially likely to conserve fat.
“I’ve seen this in so many patients. Some tell me they work out three or four hours and aren’t losing weight,” Mone said. “That’s because you’re putting your body in starvation mode, and it’s holding on to that fat and burning muscle.”
Scott said a lot of people don’t realize how important a post-workout meal or snack is. A shot of carbs and protein (at a ratio of 4 to 1 or 3 to 1) ensures that muscle glycogen is replaced and that worn and torn muscles will repair quickly.
As for your general diet, the experts say there isn’t a list of magic foods to make you faster and stronger.
They say a balanced and healthy diet — whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins — will serve you well whether you’re a walker, a yogi or an Olympian.