Why You Should Be Calling Yourself An Everyday Athlete
What do you think of when you hear the word athlete? Maybe it’s an Olympian or a professional football player. Maybe it’s a soccer player at the World Cup or a tennis player at the U.S. Open. But what if the word “athlete” conjured up images of a spin class or yoga session? What if being an athlete wasn’t just for the professionals, but was for all of us? After all, isn’t the person who hits the pavement for a 6 a.m. run before a long day of work an athlete? What about the person crossing the finish line of a triathlon or the people in the neighborhood spin or barre class—aren’t they athletes? I say yes.
Believing that you’re an athlete, an everyday athlete, at any fitness level helps to elevate your routine. It’s no longer a means to get to a certain number on a scale, and it’s never a punishment for what you ate. Instead, being an everyday athlete means fitness has a purpose beyond the physical. It becomes something you do because you love to do it and because it helps you feel your best.
Everyday athletes connect their fitness to their mental and physical health. They also know that food is not something to be “worked off,” but instead helps to fuel the celebration of what your body can do. In my opinion, we’re all everyday athletes, whether we’re reaching our max in a fitness class, on a track, on a trail, in a pool or anywhere else we’re pushing our bodies to be stronger.
Keep reading to see how an everyday athlete can fuel like a pro.
Adequate hydration is important for sports performance with dehydration as little as one percent having a detrimental effect on performance. Let’s break it down:
Environment, age, chronic health conditions, medications and fitness level can all influence your hydration needs. About 20 percent of your hydration comes from foods like fruits and vegetables, beverages other than water (including coffee and tea) and soups. And about 80 percent of the water you need per day comes from the actual water you drink. Most people naturally consume adequate fluids throughout the day, much of which comes from what you drink with food or eat in food, and not just from drinking due to thirst alone.
To ensure you’re adequately hydrated before a workout, drink about two to four milliliters of fluid per pound of your body weight in the two to four hours before your class, run, weight training or yoga class. For example, a 150-pound person would require between 300 and 600 milliliters of fluid (or between 10 and 20 fluid ounces).
During a workout, aim for between 16 and 24 fluid ounces of water intake. Any activity lasting an hour or less typically doesn’t require an electrolyte replacement. However, endurance activities of an hour or more, or those exercising in extreme conditions, will see a benefit from replacing electrolytes during a workout.
Don’t Fear Carbs
Carbohydrates deliver the primary source of energy for our bodies—glucose. Often, carbohydrates get a bad reputation due to the assumption that they lead to weight gain. I’ve even seen a lot of people lump categories of carbohydrates together and label them all as “bad”—foods with added sugars get shoved into the same category as carb-rich whole grains and vegetables. This is where the low-carbohydrate approach can create a challenge since these foods are not the same and they have a different physiological response in the body.
My recommendation? Do not fear carbohydrates, especially those found naturally in edible plants like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans. Follow these basic guidelines for adding carbohydrates to your diet to fuel your workout:
- Fill your diet with plenty of plants—vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Plants provide antioxidants that help to fight inflammation, fiber to aid in satiety and the promotion of healthy gut bacteria, as well as essential vitamins and minerals. And recent research has shown that whole foods have components that benefit the body in sports recovery when compared to supplements like sports drinks alone.
- Focus on eating carbohydrates prior to a workout with the general guidelines of one to four grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight in the one to four hours prior to a workout. For example, if you’re about an hour out from your workout, and you haven’t eaten in the past few hours (or if you’re hungry!), then look for that 1 g carb/kg body weight. If you’re two hours out then consider the 2 g carb/kg, etc. If this feels like too much, then aim for about 100 calories from carbohydrates or 25 g of carbohydrates before a workout (i.e. a piece of fruit).
- Remember: Food intake prior to workout should be individualized, and experimenting with quantities and different foods is essential to finding what helps you feel your best.
Recover and Refuel
What you eat after a workout is just as essential as what you eat before. Your food intake after a tough session will help with rebuilding and repairing muscles as well as replacing glycogen (stored glucose) in the muscles. Without adequate calories, carbohydrates and proteins, your body will not respond to training as you’d like it to. Refueling requires fluids and nutrients, so focus on hydrating with water or an electrolyte-containing beverage, if you’re working out for longer than an hour or in extreme heat.
Choose a carbohydrate and protein-containing meal or snack within the two hours after a workout. If you have a meal planned in this timeframe, then no need to refuel with a post-workout snack. However, if you won’t be able to eat for more than two hours after a workout then a snack of carbohydrates (1 g carb/kg) and protein (20-25 g) is ideal for recovery.
Want more tips on refueling post-workout? Check out our five recommendations for snacks to throw in your gym bag for nutrition on the go.