We mentioned a few times in recent posts about your being more active in order to get your body to burn off those extra pounds that you may have put on over the winter months. But in order to get the most effective calorie burn going on, you need to be eating the right foods. After all, going out for a run or walking for an hour and then coming home to a nice cheese-steak, doesn’t make much sense if you’re trying to lean yourself up by getting more activity into your day, does it?

Remember, food after all is really the fuel your body depends on in order to perform the tasks you’re giving it!

We’ve said it before, more than a few times but it’s really the best analogy we can use that you can relate to.  Your body is your vehicle, so you need to keep your engine running, and running right when you work out. That means fueling up your body by eating the right foods and drinking the right fluids, in the right amounts at the right times.

The American College of Sports Medicine says, “Adequate food and fluid should be consumed before, during, and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance, and improve recovery time. Athletes should be well hydrated before exercise and drink enough fluid during and after exercise to balance fluid losses. This is nothing to take lightly, especially if you are a diabetic and have taken up brisk walking in order to keep your diabetes in check. But health experts agree that eating and drinking the right amounts of food and liquids, before, during and after you work out is essential to your body functioning correctly.

Before You Begin: Fuel Up!
Not eating/fueling up before you work out is like “driving a car on empty,” said Platt, an American Heart Association volunteer. You also won’t have enough energy to maximize your workout and you limit your ability to burn calories.

Ideally, fuel up two hours before you exercise by:
Hydrating with water.
Eating healthy carbohydrates: such as whole-grain cereals (with low-fat or skim milk), oatmeal is my favorite, with blueberries or a banana thrown in. Whole-wheat-all grain toast, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, whole grain pasta, brown rice, fruits and vegetables.

Avoid Saturated Fats and even a lot of healthy protein, why?? Because these types of fuels digest slower in your stomach and take away oxygen and energy-delivering blood from your muscles. Yes, they will eventually turn into sugar, which will in time give you an energy boost, but they really do not help you as your actively engaged in exercising. These kick in about an hour or so later! If you only have 5-10 minutes before you exercise, eat a piece of fruit such as an apple or banana. “The key is to consume easily digested carbohydrates, so you don’t feel sluggish,” Platt said.

During Your Workout: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Whether you’re a professional athlete who trains for several hours or you have a low to moderate routine, keep your body hydrated with small, frequent sips of water. When I’m running, I hate to have to carry an insulated bottle around with me. I like the feeling of having my hands free and one product that I was able to find that our sponsor HeartRateMonitorsUSA.com was able to provide me with is the Camelbak Ultra Pro Runners Hydration Vest. This is the perfect utility vest for any runner that is going for runs under 10 miles. It’s lightweight and lets you carry two 17oz Quick Stow flasks that are lightweight, collapsible and features an easy to use, one-piece silicone bite valve for rapid hydration while I’m running free and clear of any bouncing bottles. If you’re going for longer than an hour, you may want to switch out that water with an electrolyte drink, but again be careful, some of these drinks are also packed with a lot of sugar. Which is fine if you’re doing a long distance run or jog, but not for an hour or two.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to eat during a workout that’s an hour or less. But, for longer, high intensity vigorous workouts, its recommended that you consume between 50-100 calories every half hour of carbohydrates such as low-fat yogurt, raisins, or banana. And unless you are pretty adept to scooping out a spoon of yogurt or peeling a banana while you’re out on the road, raisins, or energy chews work pretty well for me! One that I keep a supply of handy are the GU Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Gels .They come in a variety of flavors but my favorite is the Sea-Salt & Chocolate. It never hurts to have a little chocolate fix while your putting your body through its paces.

After The Workout: Refuel Your Tank.
Some of the must eat/drink items you want to have available to you after you get done with your workout are:

Fluids. Drink water, of course. Blend your water with 100% juice such as orange juice which provides fluids, carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates. You burn a lot of carbohydrates, which are the main fuel for your muscles. When you exercise, in the 20-60 minutes after your workout, your muscles can store carbohydrates and protein as energy and help in recovery.

Protein. Eat things with protein to help repair and grow your muscles. And don’t think you need to devour an 8oz steak, there are many other protein-based foods out there like beans and lentils. In fact, most people don’t realize that beans such as; white, pinto, kidney, black, navy, garbanzo and lima. They average about 15 grams of protein. White beans have the most protein, with 17.42 grams in 1 cup. Lima beans are at the bottom of the list, with 1 cup containing 10.32 grams. Just thought I’d put the factoid in. Beans are my favorite and including a cup of the dark red or black beans in with a cup of brown rice, along with a little seasoning of your choice makes a great post run meal!

It’s important to realize that these are general guidelines. We all have different digestive systems and a lot depends on what kind of workout you’re doing, and also, how your body’s digestive system reacts to the kinds of foods that you put in it. So the rule of thumb is, if your going to be trying something new, food-wise after a hard run. Just make sure your close to the facilities (if you know what I mean). After all, when you put your body under a lot of stress from a hard run, it needs time to recover properly, and adding new food choices at this time, really is not the best practice.

So, do what works best for you. Knowing that what you put in your body (nutrition-wise) is as important as what you do with your body (exercise-wise). Both are crucial to keeping your engine performing at its best.