Have you ever “hit the wall” when working out, running out of energy that it takes to complete your exercise? Then you may have experienced glycogen depletion. Your body runs low on fuel stores and gives you a warning sign to slow down or stop so you can replenish. This includes adequate hydration and intake of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) so your metabolic, cardiovascular and muscular system can run smoothly.

Hydration: Proper hydration increases aerobic performance and maintains healthy muscle tissue. Dehydration negatively affects energy production and leads to muscle breakdown. Hydration is easy and cheap – all you need is filtered tap water. The recommended daily intake for women is about 90 ounces and 125 ounces for men.

– Two hours before your workout, drink 14-22 ounces of water.
– During your workout, drink 6-12 ounces for every 20 minutes of exercise.
– If your workout is longer than 2 hours, supplement with sodium found in most energy drinks.
– Weigh yourself before and after exercise to track how much water weight you lost and replace it with 16-24 ounces of fluid, spacing out your drinks at 30-minute intervals for absorption.

Carbohydrates are your body’s chief source of energy. They are converted to glycogen and stored in your muscles to be used when needed. Carbs are essential for the digestion of proteins and fat. You should get between 2.7g-4.5g per pound of body weight (45-65% of your daily calories) from carbs. Choose complex carbs in the form of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.

– Before exercise, eat 1g of carbs for every 2.2 pounds of body weight hourly. Eat smaller quantities the closer you get to your workout to avoid upset stomach.
– If participating in high-duration endurance exercise, such as a marathon, you may benefit from a week-long program of “carb loading”, where you build glycogen stores for long term energy.
– While exercising, if your workout is more than 90 minutes, consume 30-60g carbs every hour from energy drinks containing 6-8% carb content.
– For heavy resistance training, consume 0.5g carbs per pound of body weight within an hour of exercise.

Protein is essential to repairing muscle tissue damaged during a workout. Your body will use protein for energy only if you aren’t eating enough carbohydrates. Depending on your goal, protein needs can range from 0.4g to 0.8g per pound of body weight (with bodybuilders on the high end). Protein sources include lean meat, eggs, fish, dairy, legumes and beans, and account for 10-35% of your total daily calories.

– Avoid protein within 2 hours of your workout. If time is an issue, consume protein in an easily digestible form such as a protein shake.
– Supplements may be beneficial after strength training or bodybuilding to get amino acids.
– If consuming a high-protein diet for muscle building, you will need to consume more water than normal to reduce stress on the kidneys.

Fat: Your body uses its fat stores for energy during aerobic exercise. Although fat is more difficult for the body to burn than carbs, it provides the most amount of energy for longer duration exercise. Your body also burns more fat after high-intensity exercise due to a phenomenon call Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, when the body is recovering from anaerobic activity. Choose healthy sources of fat including avocado, salmon, nuts and seeds. Fat can range from 10-35% of your daily calories.

– Avoid consumption of fat before a workout since fat is slow to digest.
– Stay away from a high-fat diet if doing high-intensity exercise, as it will impair your performance.

By Jennifer Slaboda