Fitness Nutrition: Eating Right for Your Best Workout

It’s no secret that what you eat highly affects the quality of your home workouts. Without the right fuel, you lose performance and motivation, making you sluggish. Need help planning your nutrition strategy? Here are a few common nutritional challenges and a little advice on how to make them work for you.

Challenge 1: You’re working to lose weight and battling a tight schedule with work and family. You’ll be hitting the elliptical at 5 a.m. and really don’t have the time or appetite for breakfast. Besides, you’ve heard that working out on an empty stomach can help you burn fat.

Making it work: Although working out in a fasted state forces your body to burn fat as fuel, you won’t train as hard or burn as many calories, so you’ll lose ground by the time you eat breakfast. A better bet is an easily digested carbohydrate immediately prior to or during your workout. Great morning pre-workout snacks include juice, a sports drink or a banana smoothie. You may end up taking in a few more calories ahead of time, but you’ll burn them off with better performance during your workout and improved recovery following. Within an hour post-workout, top off with breakfast, including carbs and protein, for the most effective recovery and your best use of nutrients. Eggs and toast or a smoothie containing fruit and milk are both great options. On the go, try a nutrition bar containing both carbs and protein in a 4:1 ratio.

Challenge 2: You and your treadmill are meeting up for a 75-minute distance run after work as part of your half marathon training plan. You don’t want to run out of steam, but the afternoon snack you tried before your last workout left you with a side ache for your entire run.

Making it work: Your last snack probably didn’t work for you because of the timing or the content. If your workout is more than four hours from your lunch, you’re going to need a carbohydrate-heavy snack before you run. If you are one hour out from your workout, think simple carbs like those given above. Two to three hours out, you can probably tolerate something that has a little more fiber and even some protein to give you better nutrition and staying power. Stay low fat, since fat is likely to lead to digestion issues and stomach upset during your run. You might want to start by trying some low fat yogurt and a piece of fruit or some whole grain toast and jam about three hours before your run. Since your run is more than an hour, you’ll also want to experiment with adding in some easily digested carbs, such as a watered down sports drink, during your run.

Challenge 3: Building activity into your daily life has you looking forward to a laid back ride tonight with your favorite playlist and your indoor cycle after the kids are in bed. You don’t want to skip dinner with your family, but you know that a big meal makes for an uncomfortable workout. You also know that proper refueling is important, but you don’t want to overdo it before bed.

Making it work: Since your workout is low impact, you have a little more flexibility on eating beforehand, but you’re still better off keeping your meal light and low fat. Try reducing your portions by a third to half and skip the butter on your bread and veggies (great steps for losing weight, anyway!). You’re right that post workout you’ll need a little something before bed. Once again, concentrate on getting in some carbs and protein for the best recovery, although a little fat at this point won’t hurt you and might keep you satisfied through the night. You could try some pretzels and hummus, apples and peanut butter, or toast and a boiled egg.

The keys to fueling your home workout are to use your pre-workout window to emphasize carbohydrates that are easily digested with a bit of protein and fiber if you’re at least 2 hours out from your workout. For long workouts (more than an hour), you’ll need to add in a little something during the workout to keep you going. This should be easily digested and primarily a carbohydrate, such as sports drink, energy gel, or a banana and water. Post workout, concentrate on getting a meal within the next hour or two or a snack that contains both carbs and protein to help you protect the muscle you’re building and to help your body access its fat stores for better results. Following these few basic steps will make a big difference in the results you see from your workouts.

 

The Benefits of Using Stationary Bikes

Although new exercise routines and regimens seem to appear on a daily basis, and treadmills and ellipticals continue to be the most popular cardio pieces in the gym, don’t overlook the original piece of stationary exercise equipment, the bike. The benefits of using an exercise bike are numerous and diversified. It is a great workout for beginning exercisers, elite athletes, those returning from injuries, or someone doesn’t have the space or budget for a high-end treadmill or elliptical.

Other than training your cardiovascular system and burning calories, the single most significant benefit to using a stationary bike is that it allows you to do those things without the pounding and impact of weight bearing exercises. An exercise bike allows you to train while giving your skeletal system and joints a break. So physiologically, you can see how it is useful to every type of exerciser.

Although there are dual action bikes (with upper body arms) available, most bikes in use today are lower body upright and recumbent bikes. Don’t fall into the trap believing that because you are not using your upper body, you are not getting a good workout. The largest muscles in the body are in your legs and when you put them in motion against resistance, you will get a great workout.

Stationary bikes are a great way for first time exercisers, overweight users looking to lose weight and those needing a low-impact workout to begin an exercise program. They are fixed motion pieces that require very little coordination and are relatively easy to use. You can elevate your heart rate and burn calories and fat without the stress of a weight bearing exercise.

For elite athletes, the bike provides a great complementary cross training workout, while reducing the risk of developing overuse injuries. You can get off your feet and give your joints a break from impact activities, yet you can continue to train your cardiovascular system. Each activity you do works your muscles differently. The bike can also add variety to you workout routines.

Finally, if you are recovering from an injury or joint replacement, the bike can be an integral part of your recovery and help get you back on your feet doing what you love to do.

Finally, cost and space. These are two of the biggest factors or hurdles people encounter when trying to decide on a piece of fitness equipment for the home. If you can’t commit to at least $1,500 for a quality treadmill or a $1,000 for a quality elliptical, a stationary bike may be the better option for you. There are many quality choices for under a $1,000. Or, if you are tight on space, the bikes take up less room and are portable. Just wheel it out in front of the TV and you are on your way to a healthier future.

Summary of Benefits

  • Trains cardiovascular system
  • Burns calories
  • Low impact
  • Easy to use
  • Low risk of injury
  • Helps develop leg strength
  • Excellent form of cross training
  • Can add variety to weight bearing exercise routines
  • Bikes take up less space
  • Are typically more affordable
  • Are portable

So if you’re in the market for a new piece of cardio equipment, consider an exercise bike for a great low impact workout that you can easily fit in your home.

Fitness Equipment Power Requirements and Electrical Guidelines

When you are thinking about purchasing fitness equipment, you should also think about the location you’ll put it in as well as power requirements. As always, you can check your owner’s manual for specific requirements. Please note that, like a refrigerator and other large electrical appliances, treadmills, large ellipticals and suspension trainers are electrical devices that require an adequate power source to operate properly. Therefore we strongly recommend the following electrical guidelines.

Recommended Power Outlet

  • Preferred method: Properly grounded, dedicated 20-Amp, 120-volt circuit
    A dedicated circuit ensures that the treadmill will not be sharing the circuit with any other electrical device, which can contribute to the unit starving for adequate power.
  • Alternate method: Same as above, but 15 Amps versus 20 Amps
    If a 15-Amp circuit is used, it is even more important that the circuit be dedicated solely to the treadmill. A 15-Amp circuit is wired with lighter gauge wire than a 20-Amp circuit, thereby making the unit even more susceptible to power starvation if the outlet/circuit is shared with other electrical devices.

Power Sources to Avoid

  • GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets/circuits
    The treadmill can cause nuisance tripping of GFCI’s, which can result in a damaged component(s) on the treadmill.
  • Surge Suppressors
    Surge Suppressors can impede initial inrush current necessary to properly charge capacitors, etc. Burned or damaged components can result.
  • Any extension cord
    Extension cords can cause excessive voltage drops, thus providing the treadmill with less than sufficient voltage/current to operate properly. Burned or damaged components can occur as a result.
  • Any outlet connected to a light dimmer
    Household outlets are frequently connected to lamp/light dimmers. Dimmers by their purpose reduce voltage/current to the connected device. Such reduced power to a treadmill will cause damaged components.

Operational Side Effects on Improper Power Supply

  • Undersupplied power outlets, i.e., outlets with 110 Volts or less, can cause running belt surges, especially when the elevation motor is operating

I realize this may not be the most entertaining blog to ever appear, but it is very important. Good power to your cardio exercise equipment can mean the difference between years of uninterrupted use to years of fixing. Often power issues do not show their true colors right away, but it will affect it down the line. Do yourself a favor and find the perfect place to put the unit, with the correct power requirements, and you will be a happy user.