Eat right for optimal performance.
If you're like us, you're always hungry. And, Picky Bars saves our butts daily from hanger/yunger/runger — all different kinds of hunger-induced discomfort and cray cray. Seriously though, it can be hard to figure out what to nosh pre- and post-workout. Here's some sweet tips from our Picky OMies...
Get it right, get it tight!
We’ve all had those workouts where we think, “If only I hadn't have eaten that meal right before,” or “Geesh I feel so weak and hungry right now.” Perfecting fuel for exercise is a science! And, it's different for every body, which is why it’s important to know your body and try out a couple different routines to see which works best for you personally. One of Lauren Fleshman’s inspirations for creating Picky Bars is her triathlete hubby, who was having stomach issues that were preventing him from training to his full potential. While there is no “perfect” snack for everyone, there are ideal foods and ratios that could benefit you the next time you hit the yoga mat, hiking trails, or wherever your athletic prowess takes ya! We’ve worked out some suggestions to help you eat right, depending on what you are doing!
Low Intensity Training
(Walking, Yoga, Running < 45 minutes, biking < hour, strength training, etc.)
This is what most of us do every day! And, fortunately, these are the easiest activities to fuel. If you’re eating a healthy diet including whole foods in moderation and snack every couple of hours throughout the day, you don’t need to worry much about fueling these types of sessions — Phewf! However, if you’re having stomach issues, play around with removing different foods earlier in the day and see how that affects your workout. Some people try eliminating fiber or dairy (things that are more difficult to digest) and notice a big difference. Most people in this “low intensity” category are exercising for overall life health and not a competition, so while you don’t need to mind pre- and post-exercise snacks quite as much, it’s still super important to maintain a diet high in nutrients in order to achieve optimal health!
NOTE: A lot of studies have actually linked the “healthiest people” to performing moderate exercise every day and monitoring health in other areas (sleep, nutrition, moderation, laughter, etc.).
Medium Intensity Training
(Gets the heart rate up a bit, exercising for > 1 hour, running up to 90 minutes)
This is still not a gut-clenching, over-the-top effort, but one that requires food planning. For example, it can be good to have some “quick sugar” right before you exercise. This is not the type of food you want to eat regularly, but a quick bite or gulp of something with a lot of sugar can be great immediately before you exercise. If you haven’t eaten a meal for a couple hours, it’s also great to have a small meal or snack 1–2 hours before getting out the door. Ideas for this include a banana with nut butter, a small serving of oatmeal with a honey drizzle and nuts, a small yogurt with fruit, a piece or toast with nut butter, etc. Anytime you are pairing a carbohydrate with a fat or protein, it’s really beneficial because your body is then able to use the energy over a longer period of time and avoid sugar crashes that happen when you eat a carbohydrate on its own. Pairing is always winning, and there are endless combinations, so you should use whatever tastes and works best for you.
This is also the type of workout when eating afterward becomes important. We will talk more about this in the high intensity section, but the ideal recovery ratio is 4:1 carbohydrate to protein (the exact ratio of Picky Bars)! Getting in food in the 30 minutes directly after exercise is the “ideal recovery window” — the time when eating will be most beneficial for you. It can be hard when people are trying to lose or maintain weight to understand why all this eating is happening surrounding a workout. Eating small meals frequently is much better for your body than ‘saving up’ for a meal or starving for a couple hours. You don’t have to eat more calories (unless you are training more, in which case you do!). It’s just important to time them wisely.
High Intensity Training
(Working out for >90 minutes, speed specific work, high heart rate exercise, any type of long or hard effort)
This is where eating and nutrition can become crucial and really affect how you feel and perform while working out or competing. Pros seem to have this art mastered, but most of us learn through trial and error. Before prolonged excercise, it’s important to make sure you have a meal or substantial snack. This should be higher in carbohydrates than your normal meals as your body will use this as fuel for the workout. If it’s early in the morning and you don’t have time to have and digest a large meal, at least get some sort of food in pre-workout because it’s not good to exercise on empty (think trying to use a car without any gas or a computer that hasn’t been charged). This is probably the biggest time for potential fail so you will definitely have to try out some different food combinations to see what works best. Some ideas are: toast with nut butter and a banana, oatmeal with fruit and yogurt, and yogurt or kefir with muesli and honey. If you don’t have enough time, try to at least get in a Picky Bar (or whatever your preference is). Once you're in your workout, fuel should come in the form of quick sugar: sugary chews or drinks, jelly beans, or a gel. These things are high in sugar, which is the fastest way for your body to receive and process carbohydrate with the least amount of energy so you won’t have stomach issues and cramping. If you are exercising 90+ minutes, you need to start this fueling process at 60 minutes and continue fueling every 20-30 minutes until you finish.
Fueling within the 30 minute window is prime — this is when you get the most from the food you consume and your body will be able to benefit and recover. It’s possible to decrease your recovery time by significant amounts of time (days!) if you learn how to recover properly. It's at times like this when the 4:1 carbohydrate and protein ratio are really essential. It’s pretty impossible to know the exact carb and protein ratios in everything we eat, but we can still do our best. As always, combinations are the key! Your body will be able to use the energy from a carb plus fat or carb plus protein much better than any of these things on their own.
So, there ya have it! Though this is only a brief summary of what to eat while training, it covers the basic and most important "how-to" for while you're getting after it. Make sure to experiment. We are all unique individuals and our bodies seem to have their own special preferences and restrictions. Don’t let stomach issues prevent ya from following your active dreams.