As a group fitness instructor, I need to fuel my body with quality food in order to tackle my teaching schedule with a continuous stream of energy. However, making the “right” food choices has always been a struggle. I have a penchant for chocolate, cheese, breads, and wine. Not the best foods for long-term health and fitness. I build many meals around whole grains, produce, and protein, but I’ve also turned to vending machine snacks, processed bars and drinks, and tons of caffeine to power up my workouts on more occasions than I’d like to admit.
So, I turned to a Registered Dietitian and friend Sumi Tohan, who provided professional advice on how to fuel the body for workouts, along with healthy eating tips for our lives outside of the gym. She advises that balance is key. Here are a few valuable tips Sumi passed on.
Pack a Workout Punch. First, the workout fuel wisdom. Pre-workout fuel should consist of carbohydrates consumed about 30-60 minutes before your workout. Bananas, rice cakes, apples, pretzels, or toast. Nothing weird or complicated. Just simple and easy to digest. Where it gets important is post-workout when you need to replenish those glycogen stores so you don’t end up with muscle wasting or extreme fatigue. Aim for a ratio of 2:1 carbs to protein. Examples include the following:
applies with cheese
whole grain pita bread with hummus
turkey with rice
cereal with milk
For those of us who still like the grab-and-go bars, Sumi recommended the following:
Add the Good Stuff. For general healthy eating, shift the focus to adding essential foods into your diet rather than cutting foods out. By filling up on the high-quality stuff, you don’t have room for the crap. Keep in mind the importance of visuals for satiety. When you take time to eat a plate full of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, you feel more filled than when you suck down a calorie-packed smoothie. She emphasizes that you should aim to enjoy foods in their natural state, rather than in the dried or processed versions. It’ll take longer to consume whole foods, and you’ll feel satisfied for a longer period of time.
Healthy Habits when Dining Out. Now for some tips to fuel on the go, whether you’re dashing to work, network, or work out. Go for produce like apples, bananas, baby carrots, and cherry tomatoes that are easy to pack and eat. Also turn to low-fat yogurt cups, individually-packed raw nut mixes, whole grain cracker packs, and snack-size containers of peanut butter, hummus, and guacamole. All can be found at your local grocer. What if you’re at a happy hour or networking event? Have no fear, you can enjoy eating out without busting your health goals. Steer clear of the fried fare and instead nosh on grilled kebabs or meat skewers, or share a cheese platter with a friend. Other recommendations were to keep hydrated (which also helps you feel full), ask for sauces and dressings on the side, and stay away from too many sugary cocktails. I’d like to add my own tip here: Enjoy yourself, but watch portion sizes and make little healthy swaps when possible.
We can have the foods we love (hello dark chocolate!) but health is also important, so keep everything in moderation. And if all else fails and healthy eating goes out the window? I’ll see you in my gym class tomorrow morning for an extra tough workout!