By Melanie Neading, Personal Trainer, Runner & Food Re-fueler!

facebook-post-nutrition-fuelYou wouldn’t take a road trip without any gas in your tank.  If you did, you certainly wouldn’t question why your car stopped running if the tank was empty before your trip.  Your body is just like your car; it must have proper fuel in order to function the way you want it to.  Before you hit the treadmill and weights, before you step into the gym, make sure you properly fuel your body to optimize your workout.

There is an obvious link between what we eat and the energy we have. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are called energy nutrients for a reason and their effectiveness can be key when choosing pre-workout foods.  While I won’t cover everything they do in the body, a basic overview will help to explain their importance before a workout session.

Carbohydrates are a quick energy source that the body prefers for fuel.  They are stored in the muscle as glycogen, which is an excellent storage form because it can be easily converted back to glucose and used for energy.  Without the proper of carbohydrates, people reach the point of exhaustion.  ACSM recommends 6 to 10 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.  The body is limited in the amount of storage capacity of carbohydrates; therefore they must be replenished every 3-4 hours in small frequent meals.

Proteins have a number of functions as well.  Protein is needed to build and maintain tissue.  During an exercise session, particularly strength training, muscles and tissues have microscopic tears.  Protein is used to repair and strengthen the tissues.  The average adult’s daily requirement for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Fat is also a source of energy for the body.  When the body is deficient of glucose stores, it calls on fat to provide the energy needed.  Fats have gotten a bad rap in our cultural diet, yet intake of “good” fats such as essential fatty acids and Omega-3 provide nutrient transportation and carrier of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K.

So when you are selecting what to eat before your workout, you need to think about the way your body is going to process and use the food.  The carbohydrates will get you moving, the fat will keep you moving, and the protein will help repair any muscle damage and help build the muscle stronger.

You wouldn’t take your car out for a spin without fuel, so don’t expect your body to be any different.

Here are a few pre-workout foods that you may want to try to get your energy level high:

*Bananas are often referred to as nature’s “Power Bar”.  They are packed with carbs and potassium, which aids in the function of muscle and nerves.  Pair the banana with 1/2 cup of Greek Yogurt for the protein, or blend them with ice into a smoothie.

*Oats are a great source of carbs in the form of fiber, which means they will gradually release carbohydrates into the blood stream, which means they will last longer.  Enjoy 1 cup 30 minutes prior to the workout.

*Whole grain bread is a great source of healthy carbs.  Make sure to read the label so that the first ingredient is 100% whole wheat and no high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils.  Add 1 tablespoon of almond butter or peanut butter for protein.  Also, you can do sliced turkey breast for an afternoon snack.