Keep Track of Your Body Fuels
You're in the middle of a long workout and you're wondering how in the world you're going to
muster up enough energy to finish. We've all been there. It's as though someone has
unscrewed the cap and let all the fuel out of our tank.

So what should you reach for to help you comfortably finish your workout? Sports-product
manufacturers have come up with all sorts of new items to help you do just that. But are they
really any better than the old standards: water, a banana or a bagel?

Before we answer that question, a caveat: There is no single solution that works for
everyone. Once you explore your options, you can determine which is the best for your
body's particular needs.

Choices, choices, choices

There are few things more essential to maintaining performance than staying hydrated
throughout your workout. Water is an obvious first choice, but you may need extra energy in
the form of carbohydrates to get through a particularly long or strenuous exercise session.

If this is the case, energy bars or gels and sports drinks may be the answer to your depleted
energy supply. What follows is a breakdown of the pros and cons of each.

Water

Water is a calorie-free source of the fluid your body needs to keep going. There is no better
way to compromise performance than to exercise while you're dehydrated. Research shows
that your heart rate increases eight beats per minute for every liter of sweat lost during
exercise. This can occur in as little as 30 minutes of exercise depending upon the
environment and your intensity.

This increased heart rate, combined with inefficient cooling, causes your temperature to
elevate. This not only compromises performance, but can lead to heat illness as well.

Most experts recommend drinking at least a cup (four to 10 ounces) of water every 15
minutes of exercise.

Sports drinks

Activities lasting longer than one hour can leave your body wanting more than just water.
Sports drinks, which typically contain about 50 to 70 calories, plus vitamins and minerals, are
an easy answer to both the fluid and carbohydrate drain that comes from prolonged activity.
Research shows that runners and cyclers who consume a sports drink during races not only
finish more quickly, but rate their exertion levels lower than those who consumed a placebo
beverage.

It is important to realize, however, that this was true only during longer-duration activities. You
should be able to complete your 30-minute run or 45-minute step class without the aid of
additional carbohydrates.

Energy gels and bars

Energy gels are a relatively new alternative to traditional sports drinks or bars. They feel
similar in texture to pudding and are easy to eat and easy for your stomach to digest. They
typically contain about 70 to 100 calories and may also include caffeine and other ergogenic
aids.

Energy bars have been around forever and are eaten more often as a snack than as an
energy replacement during exercise. Today, the market is saturated with numerous flavors
and types, each with a different ratio of fats, carbohydrates and protein. The key is to find
one that tastes good and doesn't upset your stomach.

At 110 to 250 (or more) calories each, energy bars also provide extra vitamins, minerals and
fiber, which ups their nutritional value considerably. But eating an energy gel or bar is not
enough. You must consume enough fluid to replace what's been lost as well as to help speed
digestion.

How you choose to refuel during a workout depends on your body's reaction to what you put
in it. For sessions lasting less than an hour, water is sufficient so long as you consume at
least four to 10 ounces every 15 minutes.
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