Foods for Workouts: Cardio

by in Ask the Experts, Healthy Tips, April 13, 2011

people on treadmills

An all-around healthy diet is best for any exercise routine, but cardiovascular exercise requires a balance of special nutrients. If you get cardiovascular exercise regularly (and we all should) – here’s how to fuel up.

Cardio Basics
Cardio exercise like walking, running and biking require energy from both carbohydrates and fat. Carbohydrates are the body’s #1 go-to source, but healthy sources of fat also give ample doses of energy.

As exercise intensity changes (like due to an increase in speed or running uphill, for example), the body switches back and forth between carbs and fat to provide energy. Since you can’t completely control how and when the body needs what nutrient, it’s best to have adequate amounts of both as a regular part of the diet. Best choices for carbs are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and dairy. The healthiest types of fats come from foods like olive oil, avocado, nuts, peanut butter, eggs and salmon.

All foods are digested and metabolized differently, so you need to think about the best times to eat foods that will support your exercise schedule.

Before A Workout
Pre-workout meals should focus mostly on healthy carbs, but since carbs with high amounts of fiber take longer to digest, you want to be careful not to take in too much directly before exercise. Protein and fat also take longer to digest, so those should also be spaced further away from exercise.

If you have 3 to 4 hours before exercise…… Have a regular meal.

•    A salad with grilled chicken, vinaigrette dressing and whole wheat roll
•    Turkey & cheese or PB&J on whole-grain bread
•    Grilled salmon with brown rice and broccoli
•    Whole grain pasta with feta cheese and grilled veggies

If you have 60 minutes or less before exercise….. Have a low-fat (and relatively low-protein) snack.
•    Nonfat yogurt
•    A low-fat granola bar
•    A piece of fruit
•    A handful of pretzels

Note: always consider your personal tolerance – choose foods you digest comfortably.

After A Workout
The post-workout window is time for refueling energy stores and helping tired and worn out muscles recover. That means more healthy carbs plus a boost of protein. If it’s been more than 4 hours since your last meal, it’s time for another one. If not, try one of these snack options:
•    A glass of chocolate milk
•    Hummus with pita chips
•    (In a time crunch) A protein bar
•    Half of a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread

TELL US: What are your burning nutrition and exercise questions?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

You Might Also Like:

More posts from .

Similar Posts

Yes, Turmeric Is the Spice of the Moment (Here’s Why)

— Long a mainstay of South Asian cooking, turmeric adds zing to curries and other dishes. But it has also been used in Eastern cultures for thousands of years for its medicinal properties. More recently, turmeric has caught the attention of Western researchers who have been studying the herb and its potential health benefits. “OneRead more

Comments (309)

  1. Stella says:

    Interesting article, I think fruits are always an important part of any healthy diet

  2. Dana says:

    Great article!

  3. Pita Jungle says:

    I've heard that chocolate milk for a post-workout snack is both delicious and nutritious. It just sounds too good to be true. Since I've switched from dairy milk to almond milk, it makes an even healthier snack for my Blood Type O composition.

  4. Eggs are the key to loosing weight because they fill you up. Here's a yummy egg dish that will fill you up for breakfast and keep you filled for your workout.

  5. Nick Valoroso says:

    Just curious,

    Why would a half of a turkey sandwich be considered over a full turkey sandwich? Are the carbs in whole wheat bread just too much for an after meal? I would have to argue against that.

  6. Nick Valoroso says:

    I would like to know which medically backed article told you that, "Eating more of less" makes your metabolism spike.

  7. hydrocodone says:

    Buy Meridia…

    Aw, this was a really nice post. In idea I would like to put in writing like this additionally � taking time and actual effort to make a very good article� but what can I say� I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get something done….

  8. lortab says:

    Ativan…

    This is some awosome IDEA! Wow Where do you come up with this stuff! Look im a long time reader of this blog and i am always amaized at your train of thought!…

  9. lortab says:

    Buy Meridia…

    thanks a million…

  10. lortab says:

    Buy Klonopin…

    I�d have to check with you here. Which is not something I usually do! I enjoy reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>