Like any form of exercise, good walking requires refueling. When it comes to the nutrients you need to power you through your walking exercise, nutritionists recommend feeding a little differently than you would on a run or other high-intensity trek. We spoke to registered dietitian Megen Erwine, RD of Let’s Get Checked to get the scoop on what makes the perfect pre-walk snack. Even better, it can be boiled down into a three-ingredient walking juice recipe that couldn’t be simpler, and it’s on the cusp of becoming the new staple.
How much do you need to eat to fuel your walking exercise?
As with any exercise, fueling and recovery afterward largely depend on the intensity of the activity. There is a very wide range of hiking trails to take, from a leisurely stroll for a coffee to a more rigorous and lively jaunt. For slow, short walks, you probably don’t need a lot of extra fuel other than your usual meals and snacks.
“Always remember that your daily eating habits will outweigh any pre- or post-workout fuel,” says Irwin. To her point, focusing on properly refueling for energy expenditures in daily life will prepare you for afternoon walks as well as for your morning meeting, midnight childcare, or whatever else is thrown your way. Irwin recommends “focusing on hydration and balanced meals and snacks that contain complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats.” You’ll also want to support your gut health by eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and sauerkraut so you don’t have to fight the urge to go to the bathroom when you’re miles from home.
As for the long, power-like walk, Erwin says you probably don’t need it very Lots of extra fuel, depending on your goals. Since walking requires less energy than high-intensity activities like running or HIIT, you probably don’t need to lose sleep due to loading carbs before your dog’s walk, whether or not for an extended period of time. However, it is important to ensure that you eat a proper meal before a low-intensity exercise such as walking, especially if it is on the longer side. Erwine recommends “planning to eat a balanced meal 90 minutes before your workout.” “The timing will allow the food you consume to be digested and converted into energy.”
You’ll also avoid feeling sick by giving yourself a chance to digest before exercising. If you haven’t eaten a meal within that time frame and are about to go out, Irwin recommends eating a small carbohydrate snack before you go. “A piece of fruit is a great example,” she says.
Hydration is key too
What you drink is just as important as what you eat before a workout. After all, staying properly hydrated essentially helps your body perform all its essential functions, in addition to avoiding headaches, constipation, fatigue and mood swings.
Many factors affect how much water you need, including your age, activity level, and general health, but Irwin recommends general guidelines for fluid intake of around 72 ounces per day for women and 100 ounces for men. If you exercise intensely, you will need to add more water to counteract the sweat and the increased fluids need to expend energy (and yes, water is important in winter too!).
In general, you should listen for thirst signals in your body and drink before, during, and after exercise. That balanced meal you eat an hour and a half before you walk? Irwin says be sure to include 16 ounces of water to keep you hydrated for your activity. Don’t forget your water bottle so you can drink on the go and avoid getting dehydrated, too. BTW, Irwin says there’s no need for sports drinks for low- to moderate-intensity workouts — water replenishes fluids pretty well. For extra credit, though, include one of these electrolyte-rich foods in your meal before your walk.
The perfect fruit smoothie recipe while walking
If you’re looking for a quick, healthy snack or small meal to prepare before a walk, juice is an easy-to-digest way to stimulate your workout. It’s also easy to keep all the ingredients you need close at hand so you don’t get lost at the last minute. When designing your ideal smoothie, Irwin says you should be sure to include all three macronutrients — carbohydrates, proteins, and fats — to achieve a balanced meal.
In this case, that comes in the form of bananas, Greek yogurt, and nut butter. She recommends “simply mixing frozen bananas together to provide complex carbohydrates, a cup of plain fat-free Greek yogurt for protein, and a tablespoon of nut butter for healthy fats.” If you don’t eat dairy, go for soy milk or one of the high-protein plant-based yogurts on the market, such as Kite Hill’s almond-based high-protein yogurt.
You can play with this simple formula to match your preferences and what you have. Not into bananas? Add another frozen fruit. Did your kids or roommates eat nut butter without your knowledge? Add flaxseeds or avocados to get those fats. Simply press a mix and you’re ready to roam the streets, the treadmill, the beach, or wherever your walk takes you.
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