Many of my clients are confused about how to fuel fitness. Exercise most often is used to lose weight, so why should you eat before and/or after your workout? Keep reading!
Have you ever gone to the gym and then decided to run errands on your way home? Did you get that lightheaded feeling in the middle of your errands and that empty feeling in your stomach? I have.
Do you know why? When you exercised you used the fuel you had stored up. Now you are running on limited fumes. The longer you wait to eat the more your fumes dwindle.
I find a lot of my clients are confused about what to eat and when to eat, especially when it comes to exercise. Most people do not think about fueling their activity like athletes would. Most of my clients are using exercise to enhance weight loss. So the idea of eating more or replenishing fuel they burned seems counterproductive.
Think about this though. Exercise or physical activity requires fuel, mainly glucose (carbohydrates) for energy. So, this glucose is the gas that makes you move. With not enough fuel available you won’t move or exercise as well, so here lies the need to fuel prior to activity. After activity you need to refill the tank or else your body will have no fuel to continue to move. This is when we feel bad and in some cases become a medical emergency if we pass out.
Fueling for daily exercise for someone who is trying to lose weight or improve their health is somewhat different than fueling for a trained athlete. So my suggestions are for the regular exerciser. When and what to refuel will depend on when exercise is going to take place in the course of your day.
A meal should be about three hours before exercise, this way you give your GI system time to digest food and avoid an upset tummy. You want to make sure that the meal contains carbohydrates and protein, but is low in fat and fiber to improve digestion.
If exercise is going to be more than three hours after a meal you should consume a small meal or snack containing carbohydrates and protein 1 to 2 hours before you workout.
1/2 cup Blueberries with 4 ounces yogurt
1 tablespoon peanut butter with 1 medium apple
1 string cheese with 2 clementines
Peanut Butter and honey on wheat bread
Tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread with a side salad and 4 ounce yogurt
We need to replenish our carbohydrate (glycogen) stores after a workout. We also need to give our bodies protein in order to help with muscle recovery. Timing again depends on your schedule. If you are heading home after a workout and are going to eat a meal whether it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner within 15-60 minutes this is all you need. If you are not planning to eat a meal and are running errands etc, you need to eat a post workout snack.
Fruit smoothie made with 1 cup fruit and 1 cup yogurt
Graham crackers with peanut butter, banana, and low fat chocolate milk
Peanut butter and jam sandwich on whole wheat bread
Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread and 1 orange
Example Meal (lean protein, vegetables, whole grains)
Broiled Salmon with broccoli and brown rice
Eating for Recovery – Nutrition Fact Sheet |Issue 1 |April 2009 SCAN DPG
Eating Before Performing – Nutrition Fact Sheet | Issue 3 | May 2010 SCAN DPG
ACE Fit | Fit Life | What should I eat before and after my morning, afternoon, and evening workout? 4/11/2012
ACE Fit | Fit Life | What should I eat before, during, and after my workout? 1/6/2010
Nutrition and Athletic Performance – Joint Position Statement: American College of Sports Medicine and The American Dietetic Association, and Dietitians of Canada, 2009