Knowing when and what to eat can make a difference in your workouts. Understand the relationship between eating and exercise.
Eating and exercising go hand in hand. When and what you eat can be important to how you feel when you exercise, whether it’s casual exercise or training for a competition.
Keep these eating and exercise tips in mind.
1. Eat a healthy breakfast
If you exercise in the morning, get up early enough to finish breakfast at least one hour before your workout. Be well motivated to go to the exercise. Studies show that eating or drinking carbohydrates before exercise can improve exercise performance and may allow you to exercise for longer or at a higher intensity. If you don’t eat, you may feel lethargic or dizzy when you exercise.
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:
- Whole grains or bread
- low fat milk
- a banana
And remember, if you usually have coffee in the morning, a cup before your workout is probably fine. Also know that any time you try to eat or drink for the first time before a workout, you risk an upset stomach.
2. Watch portion size
Be careful not to overdo it when it comes to your pre-workout amount. The general guidelines suggest the following:
Great meals. Eat it at least 3 to 4 hours before your workout.
Small meals or snacks. Take it 1 to 3 hours before exercising.
Eating a lot before exercising can make you feel sluggish. Eating too little energy may not give you the energy you need to keep feeling strong during exercise.
3. Snack well
Most people can eat small snacks right before and during exercise. The key is how you feel. Do what works best for you. Pre-workout snacks probably won’t give you extra energy if your workout lasts less than 60 minutes, but they can prevent distracting hunger pangs.
If your workout is longer than 60 minutes, you may benefit by including carbohydrate-rich foods or drinks during your workout. Good snack options include:
- Banana, apple or any other fresh fruit
- fruit juice
- Whole grain bread or crackers
- Low fat granola bar
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Sports drink or diluted juice
A healthy snack is especially important if you plan to exercise several hours after eating a meal.
4. Eating after exercise
To help your muscles recover and replace their glycogen stores, eat a meal containing carbohydrates and protein within two hours of your exercise session if possible. Consider snacking if your meal is more than two hours away. Good post-workout food options include:
- Yogurt and fruits
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Low-fat chocolate milk and pastries
- Post-workout recovery juice
- Turkey on wholegrain bread with vegetables
5. Drink water
Don’t forget to drink fluids. You need enough 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 2 to 3 hours before you exercise.
Drink about 1/2 to 1 cup (118 to 237 milliliters) of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. Adjust amounts related to your body size and the weather.
Drink approximately 2 to 3 cups (473 to 710 milliliters) of water after exercise for every pound (0.5 kilogram) of weight you lose during exercise.
Water is generally the best way to replace lost fluids. But if you exercise for more than 60 minutes, use a sports drink. Sports drinks can help maintain the electrolyte balance in the body and give you more energy because they contain carbohydrates.
Let experience be your guide
Keep in mind that the length and intensity of your activity will determine how often and what you should eat and drink.
For example, you would need more energy from food to run a marathon than you would running or walking a few miles. And try not to include any new products in your diet before a long-term sporting event.
It is best if you have previous experience to see how your system deals with food.
When it comes to eating and exercising, everyone is different. So pay attention to how you feel during exercise and your overall performance. Let your experience guide you as to which pre- and post-workout eating habits work best for you. Consider keeping a diary to monitor how your body reacts to meals and snacks so you can adjust your diet for optimal performance.