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In my soon to be available book (www.everydayfitgourmet.com) I discuss the healthy ratio of protein, carbs, fat in your diet that go with the recipes, but today I want to talk not about proper fueling in your daily diet but instead proper fueling during your workouts.  Until a workout friend got me into understanding proper fueling, I went for years ignoring it but the benefits of proper fueling are significant.  After a 22 mile training run yesterday I feel great today and I can say that proper fueling is a key reason and so I decided to make this the topic of this week's blog.
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So what are the benefits of proper fueling before, during, and after your workout and what should you do to achieve those benefits? Let's look at pre-workout first.  For cardio fat burning workouts done early in the morning, many experts suggest not fueling as your body normally contains 2 hours of glycemic fuel (where your body goes first for energy) and your body's gas tank is effectively "topped off and ready to go".  By doing low or high intensity cardio in the morning before eating, some studies have actually shown you burn more body fat.  Contrary to what many people say you don't need to eat prior to an early morning workout.  But because you have fasted for all the hours you have slept, if you are not planning to workout for a couple hours then definitely eat a healthy breakfast but if you have little time like me and typcially exercise soon after rising then eating will only interfere with your workout as the food will not be digested in time to be usable energy.  And you body's has the energy it needs if you have been eating properly during the week.
Next, during the workout:  If I am doing anything beyond a 6 mile run I carry a water bottle with some sports drink that contains electrolytes.  I prefer the non-sucrose/frucrose ones that  contain simple sugars that cause insulin to spike and provide un-even energy during your runs and actually can lower your blood sugar after an initial spike.  Long chain maltodextrin are found in one of the best brands, provide even energy, and are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream.  I also bring a water bottle along with the same sports drink, if I am lifting weights, or doing a push up/pull up high intensity interval training workout like P90X.  This insures you have energy as you need it.  But the reality is water is fine here too.

But if you are doing runs that get longer then the energy and electrolyte combo is critical.  For very hard longer workouts that you might do once a week lasting beyond 2 hours (or some races), you should also include a very small protein component in your drink.  After 1.5-2 hours your glycemic systems are empty and your body to fuel itself turns to body fat and protein in the body - that means it will start to digest muscle tissue to feed itself.  Including some protein helps prevent that.  Soy protein is ideal and found in some of these drinks as when it is metabolized it does not produce ammonia and has a complete amino acid profile.  Whey protein (that we will discuss momentarily) is actually a better protein source but not during workouts because of the ammonia issue.  There are sport drinks that contain a small amount of soy protein in addition to carbs.  Whenever I do a super long Sunday run I switch from my electrolyte sports drink to the version that contains some soy protein.  I am a big fan of the endurance fuels from Hammer Nutrition.  My sports drink is their HEED product (High Energy Electrolyte Drink) which for super-hard cardio workouts I supplement with an added scoop of their Endurolytes (added electrolytes) powder to avoid cramping.  HEED is a perfect sports drink for cardio and resistance workouts and the added electrolytes I use for super long runs, during races, or during super hard hikes in places like Yosemite to avoid cramps.  For the protein drink component I like their Sustained Energy product.  And after a race I always have some of their Recoverite (a protein and carb recovery drink) or some protein powder.  I don't use thier protein powder - although it s the best kind of protein (whey protein isolate) there are less expensive alternatives that I like better.
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Post workout is by far the most important time for proper fueling. Always have some protein with one hour of finishing your workout as numerous studies have shown that having some fuel within this window improves your recovery time by over 50%.  For me I typically after a cardio and especially after a resistance workout always have a scoop of protein powder in a shaker cup.  The absolute best form of protein is whey protein isolate.  Egg whites were thought to be the best form of protein and they have a BV of 100 which was thought to be the best when the BV scale was created.  This is a measure of the ease of assimilation/absorbtion of the protein.  Whey protein isolate however has the highest at 155.  And look for the isolate not the concentrate as it is the absolute best form.  Regular whey protein is lower and the concentrate form is not as good as the isolate.
After that don't load up on sugary drinks afterwords, just stick with a meal of some sort right after your workout with a focus on protein mixed with some carbs.  Sugar sports drinks should only be had during the workout and never before and not afterwards as those sugars are not the preferred fuel type.

So those are a few fueling tips I follow that I have learned the last 5 years but which was unaware of for most of my years of working out.  Just as you need to eat balanced as part of the Every Day Fit Gourmet lifestyle with the right fuels, you also need to fuel properly before, during and after workouts.  I see fueling as key to staying fit and keeping your energy levels balanced, super high, and avoiding injury.
 


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    Every Day Fit GourmetTM 
    Ingredients, Cooking, Fitness

    A high tech marketing guy with no time who loves gourmet food from around the world, eats it every day, and cares about staying fit and healthy.