How to eat properly for an exercise program depends greatly on your own personal goals. Someone on a weight loss program may have different dietary needs than a person training for a marathon. However, there are general guidelines that can benefit anyone involved in an exercise program.
- Keep hydrated. Drink eight glasses of water per day, and make sure to keep drinking while exercising.
- Decrease or eliminate junk food. It supplies empty calories, excess fat and sodium, sugar and food additives.
- Avoid crash dieting or starvation diets if weight loss is part of your fitness goals. Speak with a nutritionist or other health professional about healthy methods of losing weight.
- Feed your muscles. They need energy to work, and their main energy source is glycogen. Carbohydrates are your best source of glycogen.
- Eat 5 to 6 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight to supply adequate glycogen to muscles. Divide your weight by 2.2 to convert pounds to kilograms.
- Choose healthy sources of carbohydrates. Eat fruits, salads, pasta, cereals and whole-grain breads. They not only provide carbohydrates, but are packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals.
- Check with a professional trainer or nutritionist to assess whether you need extra protein. If you are training vigorously, extra protein may be worth considering. The added amount is usually small, even for professional athletes.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. The USDA's Food Guide Pyramid suggests three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit every day.
- Make sure to get fat in your diet, even if you are on a weight loss program. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are better for you than saturated. The recommended amount is no more than 30 percent of your total intake of calories.