Fueling up before and during exercise with nutritious food can make a big difference to how you perform and recover quickly from physical activity. Carbs, proteins and healthy fats all play an essential role in post-exercise recovery.
Carb-rich foods should be consumed approximately an hour and two before exercise to provide energy during your training session. Examples include granola, oatmeal, sports drinks and various fruits and vegetables as pre-workout snacks.
Carbs provide energy to our bodies in the form of four calories per gram and are an important source of fuel for working muscles, according to the National Health Service.
During exercise, glucose is the main carbohydrate broken down for energy. It provides quick sources of energy that fuel the brain, nervous system and muscles – thus helping prevent muscle glycogen depletion while improving performance. Therefore, pre and during workout consuming carbohydrates will prevent muscle glycogen depletion while improving performance.
To maximize your training results, try eating slow-burning carbs such as brown rice, whole grains, fruit and vegetables before your workout to maximize performance. Avoid fast-acting sugars such as candy and refined sugars which may cause blood sugar levels to dip unexpectedly during a session. Your carbohydrate consumption also depends on exercise duration and intensity as well as body composition.
Protein is an essential macronutrient for muscle building and fat loss, serving as both an immediate fuel source and helping protect against muscle breakdown during exercise. Endurance athletes should consume between 1.0-1.6 g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight daily.
If you must eat during your workout, opt for carbohydrates and proteins from whole food sources that your body can quickly absorb, such as low-fat yogurt, eggs, fruit or whole-grain toast. Avoid fatty proteins which take longer to break down and may irritate the stomach.
If your workout lasts less than an hour, refuelling during may not be necessary; however, post-workout meal or snacks including both carbohydrates and proteins should provide essential recovery support. Refuelling post workout with both carbohydrates and proteins will promote muscle protein synthesis to aid recovery after long, high intensity training sessions – according to sports dietitians moderate amounts are best suited for most fitness goals; consider opting for lean meats, fish, skinless poultry, beans or dairy as potential protein sources.
Fat is an essential nutrient, but too much of it can be harmful. Selecting healthier fats from vegetable sources over less-than-ideal animal fat sources is one way to lower your risk for heart disease and other serious health conditions, according to registered dietician Douglas Kalman’s BodyFit course Foundations of Fitness Nutrition. When eating foods containing high levels of fats such as chocolate cake or fries before exercising in order for it to digest properly and provide maximum benefit from your meal.
An essential factor of any successful fitness diet is staying hydrated. Water is nature’s perfect thirst quencher and quickly replenishes our bodies after exercising or overheating, while also protecting from overheating, lubricating joints and tissues, and aiding digestion.
The Institute of Sport Nutrition and Exercise suggests hydrating with 2-3 milliliters per pound of bodyweight per hour of physical activity before engaging in any workout, although this number may differ based on individual sweat rates and environment. When performing your workout, sip small amounts of water frequently during to ensure adequate hydration levels during training sessions.
Make use of fitness apps to track your daily water intake to encourage yourself to drink more when not exercising, and compare differences between exercise-free days and workout days for motivation to drink more water when needed. This is especially helpful if you weigh yourself before and after your workouts to gain a clear understanding of your hydration needs.