Fueling for spring and summer

By Jenni Wolf

Cue the longer days, more sun and warmer temps.

Everyone you know is out on your block chatting and hanging out. The looped path around the lake is bustling with bikes. Instead of that one lonely and bundled runner, there are now packs of runners hustling by your door. We’ve traded the cozy movie marathons and fireplace reads for more active hobbies that may find us more on-the-go.

That means we likely need more fuel to get us through our active days. But in actuality, we probably have less time and energy to think about, prepare and eat food.

Here’s helping you solve that conundrum with a few simple tips:

Start off strong. There is a reason we call breakfast the “most important” meal of the day. It’s the time when we literally “break-the-fast” and that is important for our metabolic health.

Having something to eat after we wake up helps to replenish our body’s stores that were used while we were sleeping. This tells our bodies that they are getting fed and fueled for the day. This helps us feel energized.

If we skip eating until lunch, the lack of fuel communicates the opposite to our body, and our metabolism wants to slow down and conserve energy. That will leave us tired and sluggish.

Many people struggle with appetite in the morning, so it may help to begin with a snack first, followed by a later breakfast. Or, consider trying two or three snacks in the morning rather than one large breakfast.

The important thing is to give your body fuel in the morning—aim to eat something within an hour, no more than two, after arising. Morning intake also helps regulate hunger and fullness cues, as well as appetite, which supports normal eating the rest of the day.

Pay attention to timing. When we are more active or are out for longer stretches of our days, it can become difficult to keep up with timely intake. As a general guideline, most people feel their best eating something about every three hours.

Keep an eye on the clock or think ahead prior to engaging in an activity or leaving the house. If you go too far past three or four hours without eating a meal or snack, your blood sugar and energy levels start to drop. Thinking through your plans for the day and being realistic about how long things take is my top tip to keep yourself fueled all day long.

If you eat lunch at noon, but are meeting friends for a bike ride at 2 p,m., will you be back home to grab food by 3 or 4 o’clock? If not, you best bring a snack.

Stash your snacks. Speaking of snacks, prepare yourself for busy, active days by keeping snacks in convenient places. Think car glovebox, soccer bag, bike pack, pool bag or even in a basket by the backdoor.

My favorite snacks to stash for warmer weather are ones that won’t melt: dried fruit, trail mix packets with M&Ms, whole-grain crackers, meat sticks or jerky, and fig bars. You’ve got enough to remember, so packing snacks once for the week will save you some brain space.

Foods with protein are harder to stash, but keeping a stock in your fridge makes it easy to throw some into a cooler or lunch bag. Cheese sticks, deli meat roll-ups, yogurt cups, small bottles of milk or protein shakes and hard-boiled eggs are all great options.

Prioritize carbs and protein. This may come as a shock to you, with what diet culture and the media tells us about carbohydrates. But carbs are a very important part of an active lifestyle. Carbs are our body’s favorite and preferred sources of fuel. They give us quick energy and are easy to digest.

Carbs are important to choose before and after a more extensive physical activity because of this – they help to fuel our bike ride, but then also to replenish the fuel we used so that we can go about the rest of our day.

We also want to prioritize protein and tend to focus on this after engaging in physical activity because they help restore and repair any muscles and tissues that were used. We want to, of course, be eating protein throughout the day at regular meals and snacks as well.

My favorite post-activity snack is chocolate milk. It’s got the protein and carbs all in one!

Here’s to welcoming the warmer months and a more active season—and keeping ourselves fueled to enjoy it all! 

Jenni Wolf, a registered dietitian, writes about food and nutrition for the Bugle.

Photo: Take time to rest between activity with a picnic table snack-break.  Photo by Jenni Wolf.

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