Are you ready to work up a sweat? What you eat before and after exercise can play a big role in getting the most out of your workout and meeting your goals. So, how do you fuel up well?
Your body requires a mix of quality carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats and fluids to perform well during exercise and to repair itself afterwards.
Quality carbohydrates provide energy for your brain and body when you’re working out in intense, short bursts.
Think: wholegrain breads, cereals, wholemeal pasta, brown rice, fruits and vegetables.
Lean protein is essential for developing new muscle, as well as replenishing blood cells, which bring nutrient and oxygen to your muscles to repair them after strenuous exercise.
Think: skinless chicken and turkey breasts, eggs, milk, nuts and lentils.
Healthy fats are responsible for providing your body with sustained energy during the day and are ideal for longer, lower-intensity exercise, such as walking, jogging and cycling. When you’re fuelled by fatyou tend to eat less, so it’s ideal for weight-loss too.
Think: fatty fish, avocados, olive oil, and nuts.
Fluids are essential for exercise. They not only keep you hydrated during your workout, but act as a lubricant for muscles, joints and vital organs. Fluids transport oxygen and glucose throughout your body, and regulate your body temperature. Following exercise, they can release muscle cramps and nausea.
Think: water and coconut water – the latter may help if you’re exercising for more than 60 minutes in hot or humid conditions, as it gives you carbs and minerals as well as fluids.
What to eat before a workout
What you eat before exercise depends on what works for you. Generally speaking, when taking a brisk morning walk or light jog, an empty stomach is fine – drinking water or a cup of tea is ideal.
For more intense exercise, it’s better to give your body quick energy, especially if you’re exercising first thing in the morning or in the afternoon. The aim here is to eat just enough to fuel your workout without feeling sick when you exrcise. Try to eat a small amount of simple carbohydrates or fats up to half an hour before your workout. A banana, slice of toast or handful of nuts is perfect. Chew well.
What to eat after a workout
This depends on what your goals are and what level of activity you’re doing.
Those wanting to gain muscle mass and lose fat will need to focus on increasing their protein intake, while those who have done extensive cardio exercise (such as a long ride or run), may want to focus on eating whole grains to replenish lost energy.
For both goals, it still comes down to the golden trio: carbs, fats and protein.These foods will help you recover after your workout by building new muscle and replenishing lost nutrients and energy.
Your metabolism is at its peak after a workout, and most fitness experts recommend eating within 15 minutes or half an hour in order to derive the most benefit. If you can’t have a complete meal, a protein-rich snack is ideal.
A full meal consisting of roughly 60 per cent carbs, 25 per cent protein and 15 per cent (or less) fat will provide you with the perfect post-workout food.
Think: an omelette with cheese and tomatoes or a skinless chicken breast served with brown rice and mixed vegetables.
Find out more about eating before and after exercise at webmd.com.
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