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Whether you’re just hitting the gym regularly or are in hard-core triathlon training, intense workouts can impact your digestion and put a lot more stress on your immune system. It’s more important than ever to find the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fluids to fuel your fitness and keep your GI track in top form. Here’s the best way to make sure your engine is going at full blast.
1. Eat strategically. Not snacking before you work out is like taking your car on a road trip when it’s almost empty. Try to eat two hours before exercise, to give your body plenty of time to digest. Focus on healthy carbs such as whole-grain cereal or toast, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, fruits and vegetables. These types of carb-rich foods have been shown to improve exercise performance. Avoid foods high in fat or protein. Your stomach digests these types of food more slowly, which takes away energy-delivering oxygen and blood from your muscles. If you’re short on time, then grab an easily digestible carb like fruit a half hour before your workout.
2. Push water during your workout. If you get dehydrated, it can trigger GI problems such as constipation, heartburn, or even diarrhea (aka runner’s trots). If you’re outside during warm weather, for example, you need to make sure you’ve consumed 16-20 ounces of fluid one to two hours before exercise, and then six to twelve ounces every 10 to 15 minutes during your workout. Stick to water, unless you’re going to be active for more than an hour, in which case you’ll want to sip a sports drink to replace chemicals like sodium and potassium which are lost through sweating. (Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and diet soda, since they can dehydrate you and also trigger diarrhea.) Once you’ve finished, try to drink another 16-24 ounces. Not sure you’re getting enough? Check your pee. If it’s clear or light yellow, you’re okay.
3. Snack smart. If you’re performing endurance exercise for more than an hour, eating is essential. You’ll need to consume something that’s easily digestible that won’t cause cramping and discomfort: think a carbohydrate that’s also low in fat and protein. Some good choices: sports bars, energy gels, jelly beans, gummy bears, fig bars, bananas and pretzels.
4. Refuel your tank. After an intense workout, you’ll need to get carbs and protein immediately into your body. This will both help muscles rebuild, and allow for optimal digestion. Try to eat within about fifteen minutes of finishing. Good post-workout choices include a smoothie made with low-fat milk and fruit, a whole grain wrap loaded with turkey and veggies, or yogurt with berries. You can also mix your water with some fruit juice to provide both fluids and carbohydrates.
5. Make protein a priority. If you’re trying to build muscle, protein is king and should make up to a third of your total calories. Focus on high quality protein foods that contain essential amino acids, which will help keep both your immune and digestive system strong. This includes eggs, low-fat cheese or cottage cheese, yogurt, lean meats like chicken, turkey and pork, soy-based foods, beans and nuts.
6. Take a daily probiotic. In order to make sure you’re optimally digesting food and supporting your immune system, you need to keep your gut populated with good bacteria. One easy and safe way to do this is to take a probiotic. Look for one that contains lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG®), the #1 most clinically studied probiotic strain in the world, like Culturelle® Probiotics. It also may help ease stomach troubles that can crop up during long endurance exercise sessions. On study of marathon runners found that those who took a daily probiotic that contained lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG®) had significantly fewer GI symptoms.
FDA: * These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Trademark: Culturelle® is a trademark of DSM.