Food for Exercise - What to Eat Before, During and After Workout
Personal Goal & Eating the Right Food When Exercising
If you know how to eat right and follow a well-planned fitness program, you will not only burn fat and build muscles, but will also improve your cardiovascular health.
However, eating the right food will depend on your personal goal. Whether you want to lose weight, lower your cholesterol level, build muscle and strength, or just want to improve the quality of your life.
Also, remember that the time spent and the intensity of your exercise will also decide on how often you should eat and drink. Some exercise needs more energy, like cross country cycling.
Fitness Goal & How to Eat with Fitness Program
Irrespective of your goal, the following guidelines will help you in meeting most of your personal goals. Follow them, and you will benefit greatly.
1. Fitness Goals
Setting your fitness goal is the most important step to a healthier lifestyle. Decide if you want to lose body fat, lower your high blood pressure and build muscle or endurance.
2. Stay Hydrated
Water not only helps to regulate your body temperature, but will also help to cushion joints. This is important when you exercise as you will lose water through sweating. So drink a lot of water before, during and after your exercise. Better still; carry a bottle of water with you when you exercise
Drink only plain water or mineral water. It is the best as it has no calories. Mineral water, however, will help replace sodium and potassium that we lost through sweating.
Some people prefer to take sports drink. This is usually high in calories and some brands may have high levels of sodium, so choose wisely.
Energy drink on the other hand has a high level of caffeine and other stimulants. Your body doesn't need them, so it's wise not to take energy drink. If you really need that 'pick me up' drink, sports drink is a better choice over energy drink.
If you are a coffee or tea drinker, try to choose green tea instead. Catechins, an ingredient that is present in green tea, is powerful antioxidants that are known to increase your metabolic rate. This is good to burn off that excess fats!
You can check if you are properly hydrated from the color of your urine, which should be pale yellow.
3. Food Before, During and Post Exercise
If you exercise in the morning, a good breakfast in a hurry will be two slices of whole-grain bread with peanut butter or raw almonds or bananas.
You need the energy for your exercise, so it is important that you eat something. It will also prevent a drop in blood sugar levels, which will make you you feel listless or giddy when you work out.
As a rough guide, if you eat small snacks, eat them one hour before exercising. For small meals, eat two to three hours before you exercise, and for large meals, exercise only after three or four hours of eating.
If you do more than one hour of exercise and need to take snacks in between, raw almonds or bananas are the best choices. It has both protein, which is essential for muscle building, and carbohydrate, for energy. Or you can have other fruits such as raspberries that are rich in iron and vitamins. Energy bars are loaded with high fructose corn syrup and the protein are of lower quality. if you have to take one of these bars, get those that have whey protein.
Do You Work Out On an Empty Stomach?
After your exercise, have meals that have both protein and carbohydrates such as turkey or egg sandwiches on whole wheat bread, raw almonds, banana or even a low fat chocolate milk. I personally prefer raw almond and low fat chocolate milk. It's convenient and has the protein, carbohydrate and key electrolytes. Do this within two hours of your exercise to help with muscle recovery and to replace glycogen, lost during exercise. (Glycogen, from carbohydrates, is a source of energy used for any short, intense bouts of exercise)
Some of my friends prefer a quick coffee and chocolate milk after post workout.
4. Protein in Diet
When you are in a fitness program, additional protein is essential to help with muscle building and repair of any muscle fibers damaged during your workout. Eat lean protein such as chicken and fish. Low fat dairy product such as low fat chocolate milk is also a good choice. You may want to also consider Quinoa, the gluten free grain, in your cooking.
Quote on Healthy Eating
"I saw few die of hunger; of eating; a hundred thousand."
- Benjamin Franklin
5. Eat Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates will not only give you energy for your workout, but also promote recovery after your workout. It provides glycogen that is needed for most exercises, because it is easy and immediately available.
If there's not enough carbohydrate, protein in your body will be used as an energy source. Ideally this is not recommended as the by-product is tough on your kidney.
Take complex carbohydrates such as whole grain breads, pasta, cereals, rice, sweet potatoes and grains.
6. Fats in Diet
You need fats in your diet for energy, but not to be taken just before or during a workout. Unsaturated fats, like those present in avocado, olives and nuts, peanut butter and fish are good sources of fats for your diet.
7. Raw Foods
Include raw foods in your diet as it have enzymes and oxygen that will help the muscles to function better, during your exercise.
8. Food with Fibers
Fiber will aid your digestion and make you feel fuller. Best time to take fiber is in the morning. So have a healthy fiber-rich breakfast like grapefruit and oats.
9. Healthy Snacks
Include healthy snacks to take care of your hunger pangs. Raw almonds, fruits, yogurts and even popcorn (that is 'popped' without sugar; just a dash of salt, pepper and maybe a mist of olive oil)
10. Limit Alcohol, Cigarettes and Junk Food
Staying motivated to stay on your fitness program is important. So be kind and at the same time be realistic and limit your alcohol, cigarettes and junk food consumption, to weekends only.
Also try not to starve yourself as this is not healthy. Your body needs all the energies to fuel your fitness program.
Everyone is different and knows their own strengths and weaknesses. So as you move on with your fitness program, you will realize that some of the before and after exercise eating guidelines given above, may or may not work for you. Listen to your body, use your own judgment and adjust them accordingly. Eating right to fit your fitness program is important.
To help you with this task, you may want to keep a diary to monitor your progress and what works for you.
Good luck and stay fit.
Eating Before and After a Workout
- The American Council on Exercise - Healthy Hydration
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition - Exercising Before Protein Intake
- US National Library of Medicine - Protein for Exercise and Recovery
- US National Library of Medicine - Carbohydrate and Exercise
- US National Library of Medicine - Role of Fats in Exercise
"This article is written for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate fitness and health professionals on any matter relating to their fitness, health and well-being."
© 2012 Mazlan