(ARA) - As the sun stays in the sky longer and temperatures warm up, being more active is simply second-nature. Getting outdoors gives a new vitality to any exercise routine, whether you're kicking off training for your first 5K or maintaining a program you've enjoyed for years.
Whether you're a runner, cyclist, swimmer, or just someone who likes to get outdoors and stay active, it's essential to provide your body with the appropriate fuel it needs. The right foods can make all the difference in how you feel going into your workout, how well you perform during your routine, and how effectively you recover and rebuild once you finish.
National health and wellness expert Dr. Janet Brill advises athletes - from professionals to everyday athletes who juggle busy schedules and fit workouts into their already active lives - to keep these tips in mind.
* Don't let yourself "hit the wall." It's not an uncommon feeling - everything's going along well, and then you just feel like you can't go on. That's what happens when your body depletes its stores of glycogen, which are molecules that serve as energy storage. If your diet isn't high enough in carbohydrates, your glycogen could be routinely low, causing you to have a hard time performing as well as you want to.
* Do the math. Striking the right food-for-fitness balance often comes down to percentages. The most effective percentage profile for runners to promote the best health and performance consists of approximately 55-65 percent carbohydrates, 12-15 percent protein and 20-30 percent fat. Opting for snacks that can support that diet, like MARATHON (R) Bars, which are a source of great-tasting protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, can keep you moving toward your fitness goals.
* Keep an open mind about fats. During exercise that demands endurance, the body resorts to using some of its fat stores to help fuel the activity. Regular training helps athletes improve their ability to burn fat as fuel, which helps your body maintain its supply of glycogen. While fats are an essential part of nutrition, it's important to choose healthier fats such as olive and canola oils, nuts, flaxseeds and avocados, and limit your intake.
* Plan to stay hydrated. For both elite and everyday athletes, dehydration is a major factor in causing fatigue. Do a little planning ahead to ensure that you stay hydrated to keep your body running at peak performance. You can get started by calculating your sweat rate, which will help you determine how much fluid you lose and how much you need to drink to maintain proper hydration. Weigh yourself before your workout, then run at a steady pace for one hour, and weigh yourself immediately after - for each pound lost, you should aim to replenish approximately 16 ounces of fluid per hour.
* Protect and rebuild your muscles. Protein is an essential part of the athlete's diet because it's necessary for building and repairing damaged muscle. A small amount of protein in your meals can be a great way to help prevent muscle breakdown during performance, and is a must to help kick-start muscle recovery post-workout.
* Set measurable goals. Many athletes start off with big dreams, from finishing a marathon to breaking poor health habits once and for all - but you can't get there overnight. Keeping up with the daily grind of an exercise or nutritional routine is easier when you set measurable milestones. It also helps to link up with a community of like-minded athletes who inspire you to stay motivated, whether through organized training groups or even online communities. For example, the Facebook page for MARATHON (R) Bars challenges everyday athletes to set weekly goals to stay healthy and active - and rewards individuals who participate with product and other giveaways.
It can be tempting to jump into an exercise or training routine without proper nutrition now that the sun is shining and temperatures continue to rise. But try to keep these tips in mind to keep your body prepared, fueled, and recovered with the right nutrition and stay healthy and enjoy months of fun in the sun. For more information and fitness tips, visit www.facebook.com/marathonbar.