Healthful eating is key to getting more fun and fitness from your exercise program. Exercise makes your body work hard, and the right food helps your body respond. Food provides fuel (calories) and supplies body-building materials (nutrients) to improve strength and aerobic fitness. Learn more about adult nutrition and find some guidelines to get on the right track of healthful eating.
Physically active adults getting 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week can easily meet their body’s demands for fuel and nutrients through a well-chosen eating plan that’s in step with their weight goals. Choose mostly nutrient-rich foods from the five food groups to get the carbohydrates, fiber, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals you need to be your best.
Carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables and fruits are your body’s favorite because they turn into energy fast. They also supply vitamins and minerals that help your body get oxygen to cells and repair muscle and bone stressed by exercise. Depending on your calorie needs, aim for:
Getting enough protein is vital for building or repairing muscle, replacing worn blood cells and boosting your immune system. MyPlate recommendations provide all the protein you need with these adult nutrition guidelines:
Food sources of protein deliver important nutrients, including iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium and/or calcium. These nutrients are needed to turn protein into muscle and carbohydrates into energy, create red blood cells, send messages along nerves and contract muscles to get your body moving.
A little fat with each meal allows your body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins that help build your immune system and strengthen bones. Fat is also a concentrated energy source your body can use during extended exercise. But a little goes a long way. The equivalent of five to eight teaspoons a day will do it! Focus on unsaturated oils from fish and plants, such as olive, canola or soybean oil, along with nuts and avocados because these fats are good for your heart. Eating too much saturated fat and trans fat can raise cholesterol and heart disease risk, so limit the amount you eat.
You get fluids from both food and beverages. Daily fluid intake from water, fat free milk, vegetables, fruits and 100% fruit juice and sports drinks carries heat away from your exercising muscles, cools them down and prevents heat injuries.
Adequate hydration is a key element in sports performance. A general rule of thumb is to drink a minimum of 2 cups of fluid prior to exercising and 4-6 ounces of fluid for every 15 minutes of exercise. Post-exercise fluid needs are based on how much is lost during exercise. So, weighing yourself before and immediately after will give you an idea of how much fluid you’ve lost. Replace every pound of weight lost with 16 ounces of fluid. It’s a good idea to take along a water bottle when you exercise, especially on hot and humid days.
When your workout happens three or more hours after your last meal, start with a small snack (100 to 200 calories) that contains carbohydrates and is chosen from your daily food group totals. Yogurt, fruit, whole grain crackers or a cereal bar are handy options.
Athletes who work out vigorously (more than 60-90 minutes daily), such as marathoners or body builders, need extra fuel and fluid. Some rule-of-thumb adult nutrition guidelines: