Knowing when and what to eat can make a difference in your exercises. Understand the connection between diet and exercise.
Eating and exercising go hand in hand. When and what you eat can be important to know how you feel when you exercise, whether it is informal exercises or training for a competition. Consider these tips for eating and exercising.
1. Eat a healthy breakfast
If you exercise in the morning, get up early enough to finish breakfast at least an hour before your workout. You must be well fed before starting to train. Studies suggest that eating carbohydrates in food or drinks before exercising can improve training performance and may allow you to train longer or at a higher intensity. If you don’t eat, you may feel lazy or dizzy when exercising.
If you plan to exercise within an hour after breakfast, eat a light breakfast or drink something like a sports drink. Focus on carbohydrates for maximum energy.
Good breakfast options include the following:
- Cereals or whole-grain bread
- Low-fat milk
- A banana
- A pancake
And remember, if you normally drink coffee in the morning, a cup before your workout is probably fine. You should also know that every time you try a food or drink for the first time before training, you are at risk for an upset stomach.
2. Control the serving size
Be careful not to overdo it when it comes to how much you eat before exercising. The general guidelines suggest:
- Large meals. Eat them at least three to four hours before exercising.
- Small meals or snacks. Eat them one to three hours before exercising.
Eating too much before exercising can make you feel lazy. Eating too little may not give you the energy you need to keep feeling strong during your workout.
3. Eat good snacks
Most people can eat small snacks just before and during exercise. The key is how you feel. Do what works best for you. Snacks eaten shortly before exercise will probably not give you extra energy if your workout lasts less than 60 minutes, but they can prevent distracting hunger cramps. If your workout is longer than 60 minutes, you can benefit from including a carbohydrate-rich food or drink during the workout. Good snack options include:
- An energy bar
- A banana, an apple, or other fresh fruit
- A fruit smoothie
- A whole-grain bagel or crackers
- A low-fat granola bar
- A peanut butter sandwich
- Sports drink or diluted juice
A healthy snack is especially important if you plan to exercise several hours after a meal.
4. Eat after exercising
Yogurt and fruit
Fill your body with fuel for daily performance
In order for muscles to heal and replace glycogen stores, eat a meal that contains carbohydrates and protein within two hours of the workout, if possible. Here are some good post-workout food options:
- Yogurt and fruit
- Peanut Butter Sandwich
- Low-fat chocolate milk and pretzels
- Post-workout recovery shake
- Turkey on whole wheat bread with vegetables
Don’t forget to drink liquids. You need adequate fluids before, during, and after exercise to help prevent dehydration.
To stay well-hydrated for exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends:
- Drink approximately 2 to 3 cups (473 to 710 milliliters) of water during the two to three hours before your workout.
- Drink approximately 1/2 to 1 cup (118 to 237 milliliters) of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. Adjust amounts related to body size and weather.
- Drink approximately 2 to 3 cups (473 to 710 milliliters) of water after your workout for every pound (0.5 kilograms) of weight you lose during training.
Water is generally the best way to replace lost fluids. But if you are exercising for more than 60 minutes, use a sports drink. Sports drinks can help maintain the body’s electrolyte balance and give you a little more energy because they contain carbohydrates.
Let the experience be your guide
Keep in mind that the duration and intensity of your activity will determine the frequency and what you should eat and drink. For example, you will need more energy from food to run a marathon than to walk a few miles. And try not to include any new products in your diet before a long-term sporting event. It is better to have previous experience to see how your system responds to food.
When it comes to eating and exercising, each person is different. So pay attention to how you feel during your workout and your overall performance. Let your experience guide you to find out which eating habits before and after exercise are more convenient for you. Consider keeping a journal to monitor how your body reacts to meals and snacks, so you can adjust your diet for optimal performance.