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'Healthy food' not the best choice for workouts

Powering up your body for an extreme workout can be as simple as eating a brownie. Steve Santagati from Men's Journal shares tips.
/ Source: TODAY

Whether you're racing in the Tour de France or running your regular mile-a-day, your body needs food to give you energy. What's surprising is that you don't need the energy bars and snacks sold in health food stores. While you work out, you can eat foods that usually aren't good for you. Men's Journal magazine's Steve Santagati was invited on "Today" to share his tips on what to snack on when working out.

When you're working out or doing extreme sports, your body is craving as much straight energy as possible. This is the time to relax about making a healthy choice. Although energy bars and drinks can't be beat for convenience, at a certain point the body also craves variety.

What should we be eating? For a one-hour workout:  For these workouts, drinking plenty of water should suffice. If it's hot, you can substitute one small Gatorade or other energy drink, which is packed with electrolytes.

For a two-hour adventure or workout:  This is where you exhaust your body's own glycogen and start needing more carbohydrates. Count on ingesting 40 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour — the amount in a 32-ounce Gatorade —  for any workout of two hours or longer. Or if you're out on an extended bike or rafting trip and can't stand to look at another Gatorade, you can treat yourself to a handful of Sour Patch Kids. Though some experts are doubtful that this is the way to go, some adventure snackers will even pop a beer for some carbs and electrolytes.

For recovery after the adventure:  After a three-hour workout and during your body's recovery period, your body's nutritional needs shift from electrolytes and straight carbohydrates to fat and protein. This is when you'll want to eat energy and recovery bars, or something more creative. Remember to pack your snack in an airtight container, particularly if you're going to be in the rain or out on the water. There's nothing worse than a wet brownie wrapped in soggy bacon.

What to eat whenFor energy: A 32-ounce Gatorade or a 12-ounce beer.

When you need an extra boost: PowerGel packs or Sour Patch Kids

When you're cramping: Pringles or an energy drink

For energy and recovery: Energy bars, bacon or brownies

For pure recovery: Pure protein bars or beef jerky