The Sweet and Salty of Exercise
by Stephanie Hillman, RD, LD
Mental clarity and weight management are two benefits commonly associated with an exercise regime. Anyone looking to lose those last few pounds or to increase the body’s calorie burning ability will find it a much easier task with a few hundred extra calories torched through exercise. A stressful day just seems more tolerable when it ends with a good run or workout. Simply put, one can find peace in the rhythmic breathing during those sweat-filled minutes. Lungs and legs burning, core fatiguing. Exercise is increasingly popular these days. One example is the recent explosion of marathon participation in recent years, and the overall boom in running since 2011. “General running participation and shoe sales hit a record high in 2012, specifically portrayed by the 51.4 million Americans who ran at least once, and around half of that number ran at least fifty times,” according to Running USA’s 2013 State-of-the-Sport report. But putting the body through 13.1 or 26.2 pavement-pounding miles? It seems the benefits outweigh the cost of sore legs and tired bodies when those happy endorphins kick in and a finisher medal is placed around the neck. Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishing a hard-earned goal.
For the Love of it
Exercise is not always easy, and it does not always feel good. The mental approach to exercise is sometimes just as crucial as the physical aspects that most quickly come to mind. The best advice is to consider what the exercise regimen is doing to strengthen and clarify the body. When muscles are broken down during a running or strengthening routine, proper rest and recovery will allow them to build back up even stronger. A good way to approach exercise is to ask, “Am I working hard so that I can become stronger and healthier?” When trying to push through to a new personal fitness goal, think of how good it will feel when it is accomplished and how the end of the pain is in sight. Think to yourself, “One more minute, one more rep.” Breaking it down into small goals makes it easier and achievable. Try entering a 5k, and then a 10k, and finally a half or full marathon. This keeps motivation high and goals achievable. It fosters a love for the exercise of choice and is always worth it in the end.
Does Food Matter?
Getting to that finish line, whether it is a weight goal or a fitness goal, requires attention to detail. Think of the body as a car with a gas tank. The body needs fuel to keep its engine running, just like a car. When a car runs out of gas, it cannot go anywhere – and there it sits, stranded on the side of the road. The same goes for the body: without enough food, the body cannot perform its tasks and exercise performance is halted. The legs will feel sore, the body sluggish, and the mind fatigued. Exercise then becomes simply torturous. However, with some care and attention to the body’s needs – exercise becomes empowering.
To properly fuel for exercise, apply some practices to daily eating rituals so that your engine is always topped off for peak performance:
- Eat breakfast every day. Break the overnight fast and get that metabolism revving with some whole grains and high-quality protein like oatmeal with nuts and fruit, or eggs with turkey sausage and whole grain toast.
- Aim for easily digestible carbohydrates before exercise to give quick energy to get moving, and then add some protein to the mix after to help refuel the muscles and restore the glycogen stores for the next workout.
- Lack of calories is the most common reason for feeling tired, sluggish or improperly recovered when working out. Do not create a calorie deficit through decreased calorie consumption on top of increased calorie burn with exercise. A good rule of thumb is to trim 250-500 calories from what the body needs to maintain weight in a day, and then eat to replace the additional calories burned through the exercise.
Stephanie Hillman is manager for the Dublin location of the Columbus Running Company. She is a registered dietitian and is currently training for half and full marathons. For more information, visit ColumbusRunning.com/Home/Nutrition.