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Sports Nutrition Dietitians Share Best Summer Workout Foods

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Young girl eating a oatmeal with berries after a workout . Fitness and healthy lifestyle concept.

This summer, getting outside for physical activity is more important than ever. Fresh air and exercise contribute toward a stronger immune system, better mood, and fitter body.1 Exercise may also help improve circulation, blood sugars, and cholesterol levels.2 We interviewed two registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) with experience in sports nutrition to share their best summer workout foods.

Best Sources of Pre-Workout Energy

People get energy from three food sources: carbohydrates, protein, and fats. We asked Germaine Guy, MS, RDN, CSR, LDN:

Which is the best source of energy before starting physical activity?

Carbohydrates are our body’s preferred energy source and are used to fuel our muscles and brain during exercise. If the diet is lacking carbohydrates, both performance and recovery will be impaired.” 

To put this into practice, Nijya Saffo, MS, RDN, LD recommends eating a small meal that includes healthful carbohydrates and even a small amount of lean protein. “You want something that’s going to keep you full, provide energy, but doesn’t have you over-stuffed.”

Nijya’s Pre-Workout Food Pick:

  • Peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread paired with a small bowl of strawberries
Strawberry Peanut Butter Heart Toast
A peanut butter sandwich with strawberries is an ideal pre-workout meal.

Post-Workout Nutrition

The average person who works out for about an hour does not need to replace lost calories with sugar-sweetened beverages like chocolate milk or sports drinks the way competitive athletes do. For the majority of people trying to lose weight, these types of drinks add back the calories just burned.

However, Germaine explained that water and carbohydrates are important to consume within 30 minutes after a workout to restore muscle glycogen, fluids, and salts lost through sweat. If your post-meal snack has very little carbs, you can add a lean protein.

Germaine’s Post-Workout Food Picks:

  • oatmeal
  • fresh fruit (like strawberries)
  • beans
  • PBJ sandwich
  • mixed nuts
  • Greek yogurt
A strawberry parfait provides important carbohydrates and protein after a workout.
A strawberry parfait provides important carbohydrates and protein after a workout.

Staying Hydrated During Summer Activities

Spending more time outside is natural during the summer. However, outdoor physical activity in the heat causes more respiration, more sweating, and a loss of water and electrolytes. Staying hydrated during summer activities is important. Nijya weighs in on whether eight glasses of water are enough to stay hydrated.

Adults

“This suggestion has increased to about 11 glasses for women and 12 glasses for men (8 oz. glasses). Hydration needs vary depending on age, gender, health status, and activity level. I tell my clients to check their urine color to determine if they are hydrating enough.”

Nijya’s Hydration Check:

  • Clear/light yellow urine= hydrated
  • Dark yellow/amber= increase hydration
Strawberries are 90% water and provide a hydrating snack after exercise.
Strawberries are 90% water and provide a hydrating snack after exercise.

Children & Teens

Germaine offered general advice for children and teens: “It’s important that they have access and are encouraged to drink water before, during, and after exercise.”  

Strawberries are 90% water and are hydrating snacks for kids after playing outside in the heat.

Strawberries for Sports Performance

We asked the sports dietitians to consider whether strawberries would fit into a meal-plan for the recreational athlete. They both agreed strawberries would be a great addition to snacks and meals.

Germaine described strawberries as “a great source of carbohydrates that will help with both fueling muscle glycogen stores pre-exercise and replenishing them afterwards. Strawberries…will not only enhance physical activity, but also your overall health.”   

Nijya added, ”Strawberries are low in calories, provide water for hydration, an excellent source of vitamin C, and a good source of fiber. Strawberries are also rich in antioxidants/flavonoids which help reduce inflammation and improve recovery.”

Strawberry Coconut Energy Bites are an easy pre-made snack to enjoy before or after physical activity.

Try these Strawberry Coconut Energy Bites that combine carbs and protein for either a pre- or post-workout snack.

Garmaine Guy, MS, RDN, CSR, LDN

About the RDs

Germaine Guy, MS, RD, CSR, LDN is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer passionate about health, nutrition, and living a balanced life. He specializes in weight loss management, renal nutrition, sports nutrition, and whole plant-based eating. Germaine strives to approach each person as an individual and embraces a positive, non-judgmental attitude while working with clients to achieve optimum health. Visit his site at: Eatrightguy.com or IG: @eatrightguy

Nijya Saffo, MS, RDN, LD

Nijya Saffo has a passion for all things Fitness & Nutrition! Nijya is the owner of NK Fitness and Nutrition, LLC, and a corporate and wellness Registered Dietitian. She is also an adjunct professor leading out in Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyle courses. Nijya instructs dance and nutrition classes for fitness centers and worksite wellness programs. She has a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Athletic Training from Bowling Green State University and a Master’s of Science in Nutrition, Healthspan, and Longevity from The University of Southern California. Nijya loves helping her clients reach their nutrition and fitness goals! Check her out on IG: @nkfitnessandnutritionllc

 
References: 
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). How to be physically active while social distancing. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/how-to-be-physically-active-while-social-distancing.html
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Benefits of physical activity. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
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