Today’s contribution is from Good Measure Meals’ Registered Dietician, Sarah Shanahan, MS, RD, LD Any excellent fitness plan is easily derailed without the right balance of fuel and hydration, but following a few simple steps before and after exercise can help you get the most out of your hard work. BEFORE – Carbs:Carbohydrate is your body’s preferred source of fuel.Carbs are quick and easy to digest (digestion begins in your mouth), don’t require oxygen to break down (can be used at higher intensities), and store water (which helps hydrate). Without carbs, your body will break down stored body fat for fuel, but not exclusively; without carbs, you will also break down muscle to get protein to fuel your body. For energy, and to spare the muscle you’ve worked so hard to build, eat carbs 30-60 minutes before exercise. When you exercise, blood shunts away from your stomach (slowing digestion) to your working tissues (muscles) and skin (to cool your body with perspiration). Fat and protein also slow down digestion, so eating them close to exercise may cause feelings of fullness or nausea and cramping. If you are nervous about eating before exercise, start small with a piece of fruit, or a half piece. And if you get a full stomach feeling, give yourself more time to digest. AFTER – Carbs & Protein:Food choices and timing after exercise are imperative to your recovery. Carbs and protein help repair muscle and replace glycogen stores so you are ready for your next workout. Having a 3:1 carb to protein ratio within 30 minutes of exercise is ideal, but the amount you eat depends on two things: what type of exercise you did, and whether it is time for a meal vs a snack. To recover after cardio, eat 10-15 grams of protein (greek yogurt or ½ cup shelled edamame). After strength, eat 20-25 grams of protein (3 oz poultry or 1 egg + 4 whites). Base your carb intake on your protein recovery needs. Chocolate milk is a quick and tasty way to get the ideal ratio (12 oz of low fat chocolate milk has 40 grams of carb and 12 grams protein). Food and hydration are critical to your FitTrip success. You have to eat to fuel, build muscle, and improve your body composition. Stay tuned for a future blog on hydration needs. Learn your specific formula for success with your club’s registered dietitian.