A recent health article encouraged consuming carbohydrates, such as cereal, granola bars and fruit, at least an hour before workouts and discouraged the consumption of saturated fats, because fats take longer to digest. But are carbohydrates the best foods for fitness? Carbohydrates are basically sugars. Not everyone feels their best on a high carbohydrate diet. People with hypoglycemic tendencies may get shaky, lightheaded, or weak because carbohydrates worsen blood sugar swings, as well as increase insulin levels, decrease anabolic hormone levels and can put the body into a fat-storing mode versus a muscle-building one. Muscle is almost all protein! Those who exercise regularly need protein, because the body uses protein to repair muscles. How will athletes build muscle and restore tissue damage with cereal and fruit?
Endurance athletes tend to see gains in energy, strength, and recovery from protein and fatty acids. In order to be in optimal health and improve athletic prowess, athletes must eat substantially more of the essential fats and proteins than sugar-based foods. Essential fatty acids are found in food such as flaxseed and olive oils, fish, nuts, chia seeds, cruciferous and dark leafy vegetables. Proteins are found in foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, beans and soy, including tofu and tempeh.
Water is usually all that is needed for hydration while working out. Athletes may require supplementation with sports drinks during long, intense workouts in the heat, but there is typically no need for sugary drinks and carbohydrate loading for short workouts. Electrolyte tablets are also a nice low calorie option for those sweating outside in the sun and heat.
In summary, make a habit of eating fresh foods, rather than high calorie, sugary drinks and bars to fuel your daily workouts and recovery.