5 Nutrition Tips for New Athletes

Don't Run on Fumes

You should expect to be fatigued at the end of your longest run ever or the hardest bike ride you've ever done. But you shouldn't feel like your body has been completely depleted and you have no more gas in your tank.

When you are exercising longer than 60 to 90 minutes, you will need to replenish carbohydrates that are being burned during exercise in order to keep your engine running. There is a limited supply of carbohydrates stored in your body, and once they are gone, you are done. You will feel mentally and physically tapped out. It's not an enjoyable experience, and it is does not motivate you to wake up the next day and hit the pavement again.

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You will need about 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of exercise. Experiment with different combinations of foods and sports products to reach this goal. During exercise mix-and-match these 30-gram carbohydrate options:

  • 1 banana
  • 6 pretzels
  • 2 Fig Newton's
  • ? peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • 1 package of Clif Shot Bloks or Gu Chomps
  • 1 gel pack (Clif, Gu, or Powerbar)
  • 16 oz. sports drink (Clif, Gu, Powerbar or Xood)

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Salt May Be What the Doctor Ordered

If you finish your workout with white crust on your visor, your clothing or on your skin, you are likely a salty sweater. The longer you exercise, the more salt you will lose in your sweat, so you'll need to consume extra salt (sodium) during exercise.

If you are exercising long enough to need to replenish carbohydrates, you will also need to replenish sodium. Pretzels and sports products provide sodium; to ensure that you are getting adequate sodium during your workout, stay on the lookout for any of the following signs of hyponatremia (low blood sodium) during and after your long workouts.

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Disorientation

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If you experience these symptoms, increase your sodium intake during exercise by choosing higher sodium sports products or by adding an electrolyte replacement to your water or sports drink.  The symptoms of hyponatremia are very similar to symptoms of dehydration, so consider your symptoms in relation to your consumption of fluids and urine color. If your urine is clear and you have a headache, it's likely that a salty snack will help and more water will make the headache worse.

Respect Your Body After Exercise

Your body just did something amazing. You just reached a new exercise peak! Honor your body following exercise by having a nourishing, balanced meal within an hour of finishing exercise and drink plenty of fluids.

After exercise and especially after a race, your body is working hard to rehydrate, to store carbohydrates for tomorrow's workout, to repair fatigued muscles and to reduce inflammation to promote optimal recovery from exercise. Focus on unprocessed and colorful foods to make a balanced recovery meal:

  • 100 percent whole grain toast spread with ricotta cheese, sprinkled with ground ginger and cinnamon and topped with sliced pear or berries
  • 100 percent whole wheat pita stuffed with chicken or salmon salad (mix curry powder, grapes, raisins and pecans into salad)
  • Spaghetti squash or 100 percent whole grain pasta with marinara sauce and low fat chicken sausage and spinach salad
  • Smoothie with yogurt, tart cherry juice, banana, blueberries and almond butter
  • Baked yam or sweet potato stuffed with saut?ed spinach and chicken
  • Scrambled eggs with a tortilla, black beans, salsa and fruit salad

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