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How do you fuel your body for your exercise?

Usually, no one thinks about eating before, during or after exercising. Maybe it’s because we exercise to burn calories so why add more calories to what you are trying to burn off.

Recently I gave a presentation at the Gibson Area Hospital Community Wellness Center in Paxton entitled "Eating to Workout," at which I discussed the importance of fueling your body before, during, and after exercise, healthy eating, and eating strategies.

My goal was to educate attendees about the importance of fueling your body properly to maximize a workout, whether the workout is an intense weight lifting session or a vigorous cardio session. At the end of my presentation, I saw a lot of "ah ha" moment looks on people’s faces as they realized that it is actually a good thing to eat before, during and after your workout.

Exercisers often do not think about fueling their body before, during, or after exercise. They doggedly complete their exercise routine and go on about their day.

However, these people are often missing a key component in their exercise routine: Fuel.

You cannot drive your car very long on an empty tank before it shuts down.

The same goes for your body. Your body needs fuel.

In fact, your body works better when has been "primed" with fuel before exercising. Consuming a small meal 30-40 minutes or a sugary drink like Gatorade 10 minutes before you exercise helps your muscles work better, recover faster, and rebuild.

To make your muscles work even better during your exercise, a light sugary drink, like Gatorade or fruit juice, helps reduce the amount of muscle breakdown that naturally happens during exercise. This works because your muscles are supplied optimally with energy.

The final key to eating before, during and after exercise is ingesting protein within 45 minutes of the end of your workout. This is the key to properly refueling your body and building muscle.

Low-fat chocolate milk works great since it tastes good, is cost effective, and is easily attainable. Whey or soy drink work well too.

Solid food like chicken breast also works if you prefer, but you need to combine this meal with a light carbohydrate like Gatorade or rice. As far as selecting your protein source, there are a lot of protein drinks and supplements on the market. It is buyer beware when it comes to protein drinks/supplements because some of them contain harmful stimulants or may not contain ingredients they list, nor work in ways they claim to.

Supplements also get costly after a while so finding ways to get good nutrition through foods you normally find in your grocery store is your best long term healthy choice.

Always make sure you fuel your body for exercise, find foods and an eating schedule that work for you, and remember to make healthy choices in what you put into your body.

Marco Boscolo is a certified athletic trainer at Gibson Area Hospital’s Therapy Services and Sports Medicine Clinic in Paxton. The hospital’s sports medicine program outreaches to five regional high schools and provides free injury screens, and Elite Performance Training.