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Many people are concerned about how to rebuild and replenish after a workout, however few people realize that what is eaten before competition and exercise greatly impacts performance.

The purpose of a pre-workout snack is to provide the body with a source of immediate fuel. The body breaks down carbohydrates more readily than it does fat or protein. If you eat high fat food just minutes before a workout your body will not use it as a source of energy during that period of exercise. Rather it will be stored and used for later.

As a result, you want to be sure to have foods that will quickly break down to glucose (the simple form of carbohydrates) and be used immediately during activity. Light, yet nutritious, snacks will energize you and help avoid symptoms of sluggishness during exercise and sport. Pre-exercise meals high in carbohydrates and containing some protein will extend endurance time and prevent exhaustion. It is also best to chose foods low in fiber; this will decrease any “stomach distress” during a workout.

It is best to consume meals two to four hours before a competition. However, a light snack can be consumed one hour to 30 minutes before participating in sport. If you are eating four hours before a balanced meal filled with carbohydrates, protein and fat will be stored in the body and provide optimal energy for activity later that day.

Bottom line, aim for foods high in carbohydrates (i.e, bread, cereal, oatmeal) that are also a moderate source of protein (i.e., one egg) one hour before a workout. Make sure these sources of carbohydrates are easy to digest, especially if you have a sensitive stomach. If so, stick with simple foods such as a banana or some pretzels.

Some suggestions for snacks one hour before performance include:

  1.  Cheerios or other low sugar cereals mixed in with low fat Greek yogurt or some low fat milk.
  2.  Six whole grain crackers and a hard boiled egg
  3.  A slice of toast or half a bagel
  4.  A granola bar
  5.  ½ cup of oatmeal with some raisins
  6.  A slice of toast with one teaspoon of peanut butter
  7.  A piece of fruit
  8.  Low fat yogurt with some berries
  9.  Two whole grain waffles no syrup or butter.

For 30 minutes before a workout just have a handful of crackers, a slice of bread a piece of fruit, or a half of a sports drink should suffice.

Remember, each body is different. Take note of what you eat before every bout of physical activity and how you feel. This will help you decide which foods work best for you.

Finally, do not think that exercising on an empty stomach is a good idea; you’re body may not have enough energy stores to perform well. However, snacks should only be had if you are hungry or if it has been over four to five hours since you have eaten last.

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