A Question About Exercise and Nutrition

I do about 1 hour of aerobic exercise daily, and have done this for a long time. I'm interested in learning what is the best way to eat (fuel) before, during and after exercise to avoid fatigue. I sometimes get very fatigued during the last 15 minutes of a 1-hour workout.


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    Nutrition for athletics is very personalized to your sport and includes such factors as intensity, duration, type of sport, level of athleticism, etc. Below are some general guidelines that should keep you fueled during your workout:

    ~4-5 hours before your sport, eat a meal that has a low glycemic index (i.e. a meal that is high in fibre). You definitely need to include adequate carbs - at least 1- 1.5 cups and ensure there is a source of protein, along with some fruits and/or vegetables. Meals that I like to fuel with include:

    • Bean-based pasta with homemade tomato sauce (with added TVP) and a side salad
    • Steel cut oats with oat bran, chia seeds, fruit, peanut butter, and soy milk
    • A sandwich or wrap on high-fibre bread with tofu and veggies, plus raw veggies and hummus on the side

    (I eat plant-based but if you don't, feel free to swap the plant protein for chicken, fish, or eggs. Be mindful of how many beans you eat if you don't eat them regularly. Our bodies need time to adjust.)

    If there is a long gap before your workout (>3 hours), I'd have a snack of something that contains easy-to-digest carbs that is also low in fat, fibre, and protein. Many people just eat fruit, but I prefer grains since I have a sensitive stomach. Typically, I'll eat soda crackers, roasted potato, a small ww pita, or a package of quick oats.

    Given that you're only doing 60 minutes of cardio, most guidelines suggest that you don't need to consume anything during your workout. However, if you're running outdoors or working out at a very high-intensity, you may find some carb beneficial. Although they get a bad reputation, sports drinks can be an easy way to hydrate and give your active muscles quick energy. I'm also a fan of Gu gels for my longer runs or races. Other options include a few (~5-8) white soda crackers, banana, watermelon, or dates.

    Recovery nutrition is key for athletes. Ideally, this should happen in the first 30 minutes post workout and combine something with carb (fruit, toast, pasta, rice, potato, etc.) with some high quality protein (generally includes all animal protein + soy).

    As a final comment, if you're a runner, you may want to consider chatting with a coach about your workouts to see if they need to be tweaked so you can enhance your aerobic capacity.

    Best of luck!

    Susan Macfarlane, MScA, RD
    Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
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