What to eat before and after exercise

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What to eat before and after exercise

Whatever sporting activity you participate in, whether it’s playing tennis, rugby, swimming , jogging or weight training, you need to eat as nutritious and as balanced a diet as you can, to fuel your body properly and resourcefully. Good nutrition has some simple basic ground rules, which when you follow them you will feel great, perform better and achieve your goals.

In my gym the other day, two young lads who train there asked me to help them out. They’re really into training. They turn up four times a week, and go for it big style. They are starting to see the results. Their muscles are developing, their energy levels are going through the roof, and their strength is dramatically increasing. They’ve got the buzz now. They love it. What they wanted to know was how they should be eating.

They realise that to get the best results from their workout, it’s important that they’re eating the right things before and after training. I certainly agreed with them because it is essential in order to improve their endurance, prevent injury, and get their bodies in the best possible condition to achieve optimum performance levels. Only by getting their nutrition right, will they make the most of their workouts and start seeing results faster.

Eating Before ExerciseYou don’t want to have a full stomach when you work out, but you don’t want to be hungry either. If you eat a large meal just before you exercise, you may end up with muscle cramps or feel sluggish. This happens because your body needs energy to digest the foods you eat so blood flow increases to your digestive system, leaving less energy-providing blood for muscles.

Exercising on an empty stomach isn’t good either. Not eating before exercise can cause low blood sugar, which can make you to feel weak and light-headed. You also need some energy in the form of the right types of food to properly fuel your work out. Eating a light meal before exercise may actually increase your fat-burning potential.

Make sure you’ve eaten a nutritious meal about an hour before you exercise to keep you going strong throughout your workout. Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates, like whole-grain pasta, rice and bread, or fruits and vegetables. Complex carbs are easy to digest, and will give you plenty of energy to sustain you throughout your exercise, allowing yourself to really push your body to get the optimum results.

Avoid simple sugars like white bread or chocolate for at least an hour before you exercise, as they will cause your blood sugar to drop during your workout. It’s important to make sure you don’t suffer low blood sugar levels when you exercise, as this can cause jitters and dizziness, which stops you from training as long and hard as you normally could.

It’s also important to make sure you are well hydrated before you work out. Drink 500-600 ml of water in the one or two hours before exercising. This will help you to reach your optimal physical performance, as well as providing resistance to injury and maintenance of normal body temperature.

During exerciseMake sure you take a water bottle to the gym and keep drinking throughout your workout. It’s recommended that you drink 100 to 200 ml for every 15 to 30 minutes of exercise. If you’re doing intense exercise for prolonged periods of times, you might consider sports drinks, which contain simple carbohydrates and electrolytes.
After exerciseIf the exercise was strenuous and lasted a long time, glycogen stores may well need refuelling. Consuming foods and beverages high in carbohydrates right after exercise will certainly replenish glycogen stores if they have become low after exercising.

Immediately after your workout you should have a small snack that is rich in complex carbs, so you can restore your muscle-glycogen levels. An hour later, you should have a nutritious, protein-rich meal to repair damaged muscle tissues.

This meal should be similar to the one you ate before your workout, but includes a little bit more protein and simple carbohydrates. Options include a protein shake with milk. The milk contains eight to 11 grams of protein, 80 percent of which is casein protein and 20 percent whey protein, if you drink cow’s milk. The whey protein releases amino acids into the muscles quickly, while the casein provides a steady stream for a longer period of time.

This is particularly important after weight training. When you lift weights, your muscles exhaust their glycogen storage. The body requires another small meal of carbohydrates and protein to restore glucose and amino acids, as well as rebuild the fatigued muscles.

You will also need to rehydrate your body, so make sure you drink some more water. One way of figuring out how much you should be drinking is to weigh yourself before and after you exercise. Any weight lost in that time will be water, so drink one to two cups for each half-kilo lost.

Following these guidelines can help you to get the most out of your workout. You’ll find that your energy levels will improve, and you’ll be more able to reach your optimum performance. Be kind to your body- listen to what it needs, and you’ll be seeing better results in no time.

The basic rules here are really very simple, and when followed, will most certainly ensure you get the best health benefits from your exercise, whatever form it may take, by preparing your body properly and ensuring it has the required elements to maximise recovery and improvement afterwards.

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About the author: Larry Lewis
My name is Larry Lewis, Health & Wellness Life Coach, Founder of Healthy Lifestyles Living, contributor to the Huffington Post, recently featured in the Sunday Mail Newspaper and somebody who went from being an owner of a chain of gyms and fitness fanatic, to a visually impaired overweight and incredibly sick person. Read about my illness to wellness story.
One comment
  1. Rob Loomis says:

    Great post.
    I Love work out in the morning but used to never eat anything.
    Great hint on “Eating a light meal before exercise may actually increase your fat-burning potential.”
    And…I agree, always bring water with you.

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