HERE'S WHAT TO EAT BEFORE AND AFTER A WORKOUT
IF YOU EXERCISE REGULARLY, IT’S IMPORTANT TO MAKE SURE YOU’RE TAKING IN ENOUGH ENERGY TO FULLY BENEFIT FROM YOUR EFFORTS. WHETHER YOU ARE AN ATHLETE IN TRAINING, VISIT THE GYM DAILY OR ARE MORE OF A WEEKEND WARRIOR, IT’S IMPORTANT TO KEEP AN EYE ON NUTRITION AND HOW YOU’RE FUELING YOUR BODY BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER EXERCISE. EVEN IF YOU’RE TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT, IT’S ESSENTIAL TO MAKE SURE YOU’RE TAKING IN ENOUGH ENERGY MAXIMIZE YOUR WORKOUTS AND ACHIEVE THE STRENGTH, ENDURANCE, AGILITY AND FLEXIBILITY THAT YOU HOPE TO GAIN. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT CALORIES, IT’S ABOUT MAKING SURE YOU’RE WELL FUELED TO BE ABLE TO MEET THE DEMANDS OF WHATEVER ACTIVITY YOU’RE DOING AND MAINTAIN INTENSITY. EATING A BALANCED DIET AND BEING SMART ABOUT SNACKING CAN HELP YOU STAY FUELED THROUGHOUT YOUR WORKOUTS.
TIMING IS IMPORTANT
If it has been two or more hours since your last meal, it's beneficial to "top off" your energy stores before engaging in intense or long-duration exercise. This advice particularly applies to those who work out in the morning, before lunch, or after work or school (but before dinner). Consuming a small amount of carbohydrates (15 to 25 grams) can help you train longer and more intensely, while also preserving muscle mass. The farther your workout is from your last meal, the larger and more diverse your meal can be, incorporating fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. A general guideline is to eat a full meal three to four hours before exercise, a higher carbohydrate snack two hours before, and/or a small, easily digestible carbohydrate snack just before you begin.
CONSIDER REPLENISHING YOUR FUEL MID-WORKOUT
For longer workouts, consuming carbohydrates can help prolong your endurance and maintain your timing and concentration. This is especially important for training sessions or events lasting longer than 60 to 90 minutes or stop-and-go sports like soccer, basketball, or tennis. Some snack options to consider during exercise include jelly beans, gummy bears, honey, or sports gels, aiming for 15 to 25 grams of carbohydrates during halftime or up to 90 grams per hour for endurance events like marathons or distance cycling. For weightlifting sessions, consuming a small amount of protein before or during training may assist with muscle building.
POST-WORKOUT NUTRITION MATTERS TOO
Eating a snack or meal containing protein and carbohydrates immediately after a workout helps replenish your energy stores and promotes muscle repair and growth. Having a quick snack right away can curb your hunger and allow time for cooling off, showering, changing, and having a full meal. Meals consumed during the recovery window—up to an hour after finishing your workout—should include sufficient protein, carbohydrates, and overall calories. Foods rich in the amino acid leucine, such as dairy products, aid in muscle protein synthesis.
MAINTAIN HEALTHY NUTRITION EVEN ON NON-WORKOUT DAYS
Your regular meals and overall food intake contribute to keeping you well-nourished and supplying your muscles with fuel. Maintaining a consistent eating pattern goes beyond meeting energy demands; even a day without adequate energy can negatively impact hormones, hydration, and mood. It's helpful to plan meals and snacks around your training schedule and adjust them to optimize energy. Maintaining a healthy balance between nutrient intake and energy expenditure is crucial for performance and injury prevention. When this balance is disrupted—for example, if energy intake is too low—there can be health consequences.
PREVENT THE ATHLETE TRIAD
The athlete triad occurs when an athlete consistently consumes inadequate energy for their level of exercise. It is more common in female athletes but can affect males as well. The imbalance between nutrition and exercise impacts hormones in both females and males, resulting in symptoms such as missed or irregular periods in females, low libido and erectile dysfunction in males, and low energy levels in both genders. This can have a negative impact on bone health, increasing the risk of injuries like stress fractures and leading to early-onset osteoporosis or weakened bones. Other health consequences may occur in individuals with a condition called relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S).
REMEMBER TO STAY HYDRATED
Staying hydrated during your workout is just as important as maintaining proper nutrition. When determining your fluid intake, consider factors such as workout duration and environmental conditions. It's crucial to ensure you are well-hydrated before starting your workout. During the session, experts generally recommend drinking four to eight ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes of exercise, depending on intensity and sweat rate. For most people, water is sufficient for hydration during exercise. However, for intense workouts lasting longer than 90 minutes, sports drinks can provide electrolytes like sodium to maintain fluid balance, as well as carbohydrates to sustain energy and delay fatigue.
IN CONCLUSION, PROPER NUTRITION IS CRUCIAL FOR MAXIMIZING EXERCISE BENEFITS. TIMING IS IMPORTANT, WITH PRE-WORKOUT CARBOHYDRATES ENHANCING PERFORMANCE AND PRESERVING MUSCLE. CONSUMING CARBOHYDRATES MID-WORKOUT HELPS MAINTAIN ENDURANCE, PARTICULARLY FOR LONGER SESSION OR STOP-AND-GO SPORTS. POST-WORKOUT, A PROTEIN AND CARBOHYDRATE SNACK PROMOTES MUSCLE REPAIR AND REPLENISHES ENERGY STORES. STAYING HYDRATED, WITH WATER OR SPORT DRINKS FOR INTENSE WORKOUTS, IS ESSENTIAL FOR OVERALL WELL-BEING!
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