When I first moved to Vermont from New York for my job at EatingWell, I was living an hour away from the office. The twice-daily, hour-long, snowy commutes were getting in the way of my regular exercise routine.
Plus, when I lived in the city I walked everywhere, so after a week of my new commute I was eager to stop sitting and get some real exercise. But 20 minutes into my first workout back on the elliptical my energy started to flag. Had all the driving time eroded my fitness so quickly, or had I failed to properly fuel up before my workout? As a registered dietitian (and an optimist), I chose to believe the latter and began to do some research.
It turns out that the food you eat can do more than replenish the stores of energy and fluid you lose while exercising -- some can help you get more from your workout, while others aid endurance and recovery.
Here are four foods to make your workout easier:
Eating an apple is a great way to boost exercise endurance. Apples are a good source of an antioxidant called quercetin. One study showed that quercetin -- when taken in supplement form -- helped people bike longer. Quercetin aids endurance by making oxygen more available to the lungs. Grapes are another quercetin-rich fruit.
You don't need a "sports drink" to refuel after a workout. Regular or chocolate milk -- both of which contain a mix of carbohydrate and protein -- may work just as well.
Constant training takes a toll on your immune system, leaving athletes susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections, but new research suggests that probiotics -- the live active cultures in yogurt -- may help keep you healthy. Moreover, yogurt has a balanced mix of carbs and protein, so it's a great post-workout recovery fuel.
Recent research suggests that carb blends (foods containing fructose and glucose) may be superior to straight glucose for boosting energy during endurance activities. Consider honey: like sugar, it naturally has equal parts fructose and glucose, but it also contains a handful of antioxidants and vitamins.
What do you eat to fuel your workout?
Kerri-Ann, a registered dietitian, is the associate editor of nutrition for EatingWell magazine, where she puts her master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University to work writing and editing news about nutrition, health and food trends. In her free time, Kerri-Ann likes to practice yoga, hike, cook and bake.