So, you have your exercise routine down pat. You're doing your cardio workouts four or five days a week and having a go at strength exercises several times a week. But are you giving your body the fuel it needs to do all that?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, "Adequate food and fluid should be consumed before, during and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance and improve recovery time. Athletes should be well hydrated before exercise and drink enough fluid during and after exercise to balance fluid losses."
Exercise and good nutrition make for good teammates: exercise for keeping our bodies in good working order and good nutrition to provide the energy needed to perform the exercises. Glucose, which is pulled from carbohydrates, is our best form of energy. Carbohydrates are used by our bodies as a long-term source of energy. They are generally high in dietary fiber and digest slowly.
Regardless of which physical activity you perform, carbohydrates provide the fuel for muscle contractions. A banana with a tablespoon or two of peanut butter, string cheese or a turkey or chicken sandwich are good preworkout snacks.
Some people become a little too restrictive in regards to dietary balance, limiting calories and avoiding carbohydrates under the assumption that all carbs lead to fat. Not all carbs are the cause of fat. It's excessive carbs that are the problem.
Protein is another essential nutrient for anyone committed to exercising. One of protein's primary jobs is to repair muscle tissue that has been damaged during a workout and build new muscle tissue, creating stronger and more functional muscles. While it is good to have a little protein before a workout, it is most needed for muscle recovery soon after exercising. It's also good to have some carbs immediately after a hard workout to replenish the glycogen that has been used while exercising.
If you're looking for a recipe that's chock-full of healthful protein and carbs, consider this easy soup, a family favorite, from Taste of Home's Big Book of Soup. (The kidney beans are my own addition.)
Mexican Chicken Soup
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 cup water
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 (32-ounce) bottle of V8 juice
1 (16-ounce) jar salsa
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn, thawed
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans
Saute chicken in oil until no longer pink. Add water and taco seasoning and simmer until chicken is well coated. Transfer to a slow cooker.
Add V8 juice and all other ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 3 or 4 hours. Optional: Serve with cheddar cheese, sour cream and cilantro.
To shorten the cooking time, use rotisserie chicken and cook the soup on the stove.
Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.