Eating for Exercise – Fueling and Replenishing Your Body

Thursday, December 13, 2012 8:50 AM

Author: April Williams, MS, RCEP Exercise Physiologist

Workout-SnackEating before you exercise is like fueling up your gas tank to get you from Point A to Point B. It allows you to get through your workout from start to finish with enough energy. A pre-exercise meal serves a variety of purposes, including:

  1. Helps prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and its symptoms of lightheadedness , needless fatigue, blurred vision and indecisiveness.
  2. Helps settle your stomach, absorb gastric juices and ward off hunger. 
  3. Fuels your muscles and feeds your brain. Any carbohydrates you eat far enough in advance of working out will help to release stored glycogen and carbohydrate into your blood stream to keep you going.
  4. Gives you peace of mind in knowing that your body is well fueled.

What to Eat Before Working Out
What you should eat prior to working out will vary from person to person. It will be trial and error to determine what works for you and your routine. As a rule of thumb, you should look for foods that are easily digestible, and often high in carbohydrates and low in fat, such as: toast, bananas, dried cereal, crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, fig bars, and/or small servings of peanut butter, jam or honey.

What to Avoid Eating Before Working Out
There are many foods that should be avoided before you exercise. You will want to limit high-fat sources of protein, such as greasy foods like fries and cheeseburgers. Instead, choose smaller portions of turkey, hard-boiled eggs or low-fat milk. Be careful with sugary foods and beverages as they can give you a sugar high prior to exercise and may leave you without the necessary energy to finish your routine. Stay away from anything that is high in fiber, as this type of food could cause gastric upset during your activity.

What to Eat After Working Out
Eating after you exercise can help you recover faster from your workouts. Chocolate milk or yogurt is a perfect post-workout option because each contains carbohydrates and protein. The protein will help build and repair muscle, and the carbohydrates will help replenish glycogen stores that were used in your workouts.  Some other options to help refuel your tank could include: fruit smoothies made with yogurt or milk and a handful of pretzels, juice with string cheese and some crackers, or bowl of your favorite cereal and a banana.

What are some of your favorite snacks for before and after workouts?

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