What to Eat Before And After a Workout
Your body is a personal machine that requires fuel to function and regular maintenance to fix everyday wear-and-tear. So when you start exercising, naturally, your body’s requirement of fuel and maintenance goes up. The right foods, eaten at timely intervals throughout the day, will ensure that your machine has the energy to sustain the increased physical activity and sufficient nutrients to repair any incurred damage.
What to focus on before you begin
You need to ingest a sufficient amount of calories before starting a training session. Skipping a meal or not eating enough before training may reduce your exercise performance. Feelings of lethargy or lightheadedness may increase the chance of injury.
You should aim to have a meal three to four hours before a workout. The focus of this meal is to top-up your energy reserves and maintain your blood glucose levels during the workout.
However, it’s your exercise routine that will decide how you should balance between carbs and protein in your pre-workout meal. For example, while weight training demands more protein intake to grow and repair muscles, marathon training demands higher carbohydrate intake to provide sustained energy. You also need to keep up your hydration levels during the workout to avoid muscle cramping. Drink at least two glasses (500ml) of fluids two to three hours before your training session and one glass (250ml) before starting the session.
If the gap between your last meal and exercise session exceeds four hours, as it happens in the case of working out early in the morning, you can fuel up by eating a carb-rich snack 30 to 60 minutes before your training session. Avoid high-fat foods, as fat is digested slowly and may cause stomach discomfort if eaten just before exercising.
What about during a workout?
What and how much you eat or drink during training depends mainly on the intensity and duration of your exercise. Mostly, a training session of fewer than 60 minutes does not need to be supplemented with food. But, if your workout session exceeds the 60-minute mark, you can quickly refuel by eating easy-to-digest foods containing carbohydrates and electrolytes.
However, hydration during a workout should remain the primary focus. Drinking about three quarters glass (200 ml) of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes will replenish the hydration loss through perspiration. Isotonic energy drinks, those that contain similar concentrations of electrolytes and sugar as in the human body, and water are good options for hydration.
Nutrients to focus on after exercising
It is advisable to eat within two hours after your training session, depending on the size and time of consumption of your pre-workout meal. During the workout, you use up the energy from your pre-workout meal and your body’s energy reserves as fuel. There may also be micro-damage to your muscles. So, it is important to refuel quickly with the right foods for the necessary maintenance.
Remember the four R’s while planning your post-workout meal or snack — re-energize, repair, rehydrate, and revive. Sufficient amounts of carbs will re-energize your body and replenish your energy reserves. High-quality protein will boost muscle repair and growth, as well as reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
As a general rule, drink at least two glasses (500ml) of water after a workout to rehydrate your body. Drink more, if you’ve had an exceptionally sweaty session. Consuming foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats will revive your system for the next training session. The portion and content of the meal should be guided by the intensity and duration of the workout.
What to eat before, during, and after exercising
You can follow this cheat sheet of nutritionally balanced and wholesome snacks and meals to help you get you going.
|1 medium (118g) banana||1 cup (240g) oatmeal with milk and 5 (50g) strawberries|
|1 cup unsweetened black coffee and 1 (28g) whole-wheat toast with ½ tbsp (8g) peanut butter||1½ cup (255g) vegetable upma with 2 tbsp (30g) coconut chutney|
|6 (12g) almonds and 3 (20g) dates||1 cup (248g) lentil-based vegetable curry (sambar) with 2 (40g) rice cakes (idli)|
|1 medium (180g) apple||1 cup (224g) chicken salad|
|1 glass (250ml) low-fat milk|
|1 small (100g) roasted sweet potato|
During workout (> 60minutes)
- 1 small (75g) banana
- 1 glass (250ml) low-fat milk
- 1 (25g) energy/ granola bar
- 1 glass (250ml) isotonic energy drink
*Note: Each snack contains approximately 100 kcal
Each meal contains approximately 300 kcal
As you see, right nutrition and sufficient hydration to replenish and rejuvenate your body is important if you want to see the best results from your workout. One goes hand in hand with the other.
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