Real Food Refueling During Exercise

Maria leading a training hike to Camp Muir with the American Lung Association Climb for Clean Air 2004

Real Food Refueling During Exercise

Carbohydrate ingestion during exercise can reduce muscle glycogen breakdown. During a long hike, snowshoeing, or intense bike ride, replenishing energy stores is key. Some athletes rely only on sports energy gels that contain quick-digesting sugars to provide a burst of energy and top off glycogen stores as they fatigue during longer efforts.

However, some endurance athletes do not want to consume a gel, a sugary sports drink or a bar packed with synthetic ingredients and prefer real food refueling. Real foods can be just as effective as sports nutrition products. Although sports nutrition products can be a good choice, not to mention convenient, whole foods are a good choice because of the wide variety of nutrients in them, including antioxidants. Antioxidants in food can help reduce oxidative stress, promote recovery and improve performance.

If you do feel that you perform better with a sports beverage, here are some I like:

Recommended sports beverages:

Gatorade Endurance, carbs

Fluid Performance Natural, carbs

Gatorade Thirst Quencher, carbs

GU Hydration Drink, carbs

Hammer HEED, carbs

Accelerade, carbs and whey protein

Powerbar Recovery, carbs and whey protein

Fluids should always be consumed along with solid foods during training to aid in absorption of the carbohydrate. Read more on hydration.

Keep in mind that the real foods will take longer to absorb than a gel, and that the fiber content might be too much during races for those with sensitive stomachs. Some athletes have increased difficulty in digesting and absorbing food at high intensity. It might also take a bit of chewing. So, with all refueling regimens, practice and see what works best.

And utilize these guidelines along with optimal pre-exercise and post-exercise nutrition strategies.

The majority of athletes will perform better when they fuel properly according to these guidelines during workouts lasting longer than 75 minutes.

1:15 to 3 hours: 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour.

3+ hours: 30 to 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour

Use the table below to calculate how much you might need. The serving size of provides 25-35g of carbohydrate, which is the equivalent of most gels.


Type of food Serving size for 25-30g of carbs
Banana 7 oz. (31 g)
Raisins 2.5 oz box (35g)
Medjool Dates 1.5 dates (35g)
Small pitted dates 5 dates (40g)
Dried apricots 5-6 apricots (30-35g)
Dried pineapple 1.5 rings (30g)
Dried Mango, cut into bite size pieces 40 grams (34g)
Honey 1 Tbsp (28g)
Fig Bars 3 (33g)
Yoplait Original Yogurt Strawberry 2 gm fat 6 oz. (27g)
Boiled Potato 2 ½ “ diameter, 136 grams (28g)
Baked Sweet Potato 2 ½ “ diameter, 114 grams (24g)
Home Made Energy Balls

Maria Faires, RD is a mountaineering fitness and nutrition expert.


What Should I Eat before Exercise? Pre-Exercise Nutrition and the Response to Endurance Exercise: Current Prospective and Future Directions

Metabolic and Performance Effects of Raisins versus Sports Gel as Pre-Exercise Feedings in Cyclists

Carbohydrate ingestion during prolonged exercise: effects on metabolism and performance

Performance Effects of Carbohydrate Ingestion between Bouts of Intense Aerobic Interval Exercise

Exercise and oxidative stress: potential effects of antioxidant dietary strategies in sport


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Get Fit for Ski Season


Elements of a Ski Specific Training

A strong and powerful body will mean you’re less likely to get fatigued. To prepare for a great skiing season you need strength training, core training, flexibility training, plyometrics, aerobic training and anaerobic interval training. These are the key components for a comprehensive program. Give yourself at least four weeks to build up a great strength foundation and consult a master personal training for personalized instruction. 

Because skiing is a whole-body sport, you’ll want to do whole-body strength workouts. Skiers will sometimes mistakenly omit upper body or back exercises from their routine thinking that just the legs are needed for skiing. That’s a big mistake. All muscles are needed for skiing. The latissimus muscles of the back, for instance, do some of the work of pressing down on ski poles. The lower back does most of the work of keeping your upper body erect. Target the following major muscle groups in all your workouts: Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, chest, back, abdominals, shoulder, biceps and triceps.

Incorporate core training into your workouts by focusing on the rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal obliques, external obliques, psoas major & minor, illiacus, lumbar musculature, and rectus femoris making sure you include core training on the ball to challenge your balance and stability and stabilization exercises such as the forearm plank and lateral plank.

Before starting your workout, warm up for five to ten minutes with your cardio exercise of choice. The ideal ski-specific full body workout starts with legs, as they contain the biggest muscle groups and thus get the heart pumping and blood flowing quickly. At the end of your workout, stretch for five to 10 minutes. Lift twice per week, with a full body program with 48 hours of rest in between each session. When you have completed your workout, your muscles should be fatigued but not debilitated. You should experience no joint ache. If you do, the weight you’ve chosen is too heavy or you are not using proper form. I recommend that you consult a certified personal trainer when first starting a strength-training program—even if you’ve lifted in the past.

Flexibility is also paramount. Creating the angles necessary for carving requires flexibility, particularly in the hips and lower body. Flexibility exercises should be done at least 3 times a week. Choose stretches that target the entire body and focus mainly on the shoulders, glutes, hips, quads, thighs and calves. Perform stretches 3 days a week or more if you feel you need to. Hold each for 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat two or three times.

Aerobic endurance helps your body to efficiently distribute oxygen to your muscles. Doing endurance aerobic training now will help you stay out on the slopes longer this winter, and keep you energized. Activities you can do to help include running, swimming, and hiking.

Skiing is a series of sprints of various lengths, so train your body with anaerobic sprint training methods. To improve your ability to repeatedly sprint from the top of a chairlift to the bottom in a few minutes, train like a sprinter would. This means working on intensive exercises that trigger lactic acid to form. Doing so promotes power, speed and strength, and leads to a better performance. Anaerobic cardio training should include 3 personalized interval programs a week.

Build explosive power and quickness in the legs by performing plyometrics. Plyometrics are perfect for anyone who wants increased endurance for harder slopes or moguls. Plyometrics are an excellent way in which to increase explosive power and muscular strength. However due to the fact that it will aid in increasing your performance, you will need to be in reasonable condition, both with regards to your fitness level, and motor skills, especially your balance. These ski-specific, functional exercises demand not only strength, but balance and quick reflexes, too.

Plyometric Techniques
Start slowly, gradually increase the length of time you do your plyos or do them more quickly to increase intensity. Consider starting with 20 to 30 seconds of work, rest that length of time and repeat. Gradually increase time working.

Avoid plyometrics if you are either unconditioned, or suffering from injury, especially knees or other lower body joint problems.

The following key points should be remembered:
• Always warm up.
• Think springy. Power is strength in relation to speed, so the goal is to move quickly from one jump to the next.
• Aim to land softly on the ball of your foot, whenever possible, avoid landing on your heels or side of your feet.
• Do all jumps on a soft surface. Use sprung floors, dry grass or an athletic track.
• Land softly. Absorb shock by bending sequentially at the ankle, knee and then hip.
• Keep your glutes and abs slightly contracted.
• Use your arms to help you power through the jump.
• Use only your body weight when performing plyometric exercises.
• Adequate recovery between reps cannot be stressed enough.

Feet-Together Lateral Ski Hops
Stand sideways to a jump rope or other marker on the floor with arms bent in front of you as though you’re holding ski poles. Quickly hop sideways over the marker, keeping both feet together constantly. Think “featherlight”, and explode up and over the marker. As you improve, try to increase the speed, distance hopped to the side, or height over the marker. With hops, try to be explosive and light on your feet. Do 4 sets of 6 reps.

VARIATIONS: try the hops over yard markers on a floor where you can hop side to side while at the same time moving forward. For increased intensity, hop over something soft like a pillow, a sweatshirt, cone, or other soft object (so you don’t hurt yourself if you fall).

One-Foot Lateral Ski Hops
Stand sideways to a jump rope or other marker on the floor and bend your arms in front of you as if you were holding ski poles. Quickly hop on one foot (sideways) over the marker and hop right back. Then, to complete a rep, repeat with the other foot. As you get comfortable with the movement, try to hop higher and faster. With hops, try to be explosive and light on your feet. Do 4 sets of 6 reps.

2 Legged Dots Drill
Phase 1: Make 8 dots on the floor with tape in an asymmetrical pattern. Keep your hands quiet and in front of you. Jump with both feet in no particular order to every dot. Land softly and spring to the next dot. You must absorb the forces by bending your knees and hips. Jump for 1 minute as quickly as you can with a minute rest. Repeat twice. Don’t forget to bend the knees! (Picture a deer bounding in the woods-boing, boing) Vary your pattern of jumping.

1 Legged Dots Drill
As before but now use only one leg!

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Prevention of Injuries in the Tennis Player

A more powerful serve, a mightier backhand, a stronger return, better grip strength and superior jumping ability… Sound good? Weight training can help you move to the next level and a professionally designed strength, flexibility and cardio program can go a long way in helping you have a stronger game but also prevent an unnecessary injury.  

It is best to have a Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist or Medical Exercise Specialist give you an individualized workout prescription depending on your level of conditioning and particular needs.

Tennis is a physiologically demanding sport that requires power, speed, balance, agility, coordination, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance. Thus, increasing tennis-specific fitness components beyond typical tennis practice gains is the goal of the weight-training program. Both upper and lower body power are essential components of tennis.

Tennis uses the shoulders, chest, back, and arms. Tennis also requires plenty of leg power for the explosive, stop-and-go action of the game as well as trunk strength for quick twists and turns. Unfortunately all this movement can result in injury.

A consideration for tennis players is the prevention of injury.

Commonly injured joints are:

o       the knee (from the unnatural side-to-side movements), so performing leg exercises for all four planes of motion working the quadriceps, hamstrings and abductor and adductor muscles will help to stabilize the knee joint.

o       the lower back (from the twist and turns and the force of hitting the ball), so be sure to incorporate low back and torso strengthening and stabilizing exercises and an exercise that rotates the torso.

 o       the rotator cuff and shoulder. Rotator cuff exercises are needed to improve both the strength and endurance of these important muscles.

 o       The elbow. Tennis elbow is another common injury because the elbow joint absorbs so much impact as the ball makes contact with the racquet. To prevent tennis elbow, stretch and strengthen your arm muscles so that they are flexible and strong enough for your activities.

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