I have observed that people start a gym with full efforts with buying new shoes, gym clothes, napkin, water bottle and what not. But they are really confused about eating practice while exercising. Commonly asked question is what to eat before starting exercise? Well, the answer is not that simple as it has various other points to be considered. Let’s understand it.
Eat or not to eat before workout
Ideally fueling the body before any workout is beneficial rather than doing it on empty stomach. Your performance improves after having food. Many times it is believed that for burning the excess fat, the workout should be done on empty stomach. It’s true to some extent but a person gets exhausted quickly if fasting for long time and hence the work-out duration is shorter.
What to eat?
Ideally food should be the combination of carbohydrates and proteins. Glucose from carbs is stored in liver and muscles as glycogen reserves. These reserves are used for high and low intensity of exercise. For carbohydrates, eating simple carbohydrates is a good idea as they gets digested fast and provide quick energy.
- A granola bar
- Whole fruit
- Dates or figs
In addition to carbs, it’s necessary to consume a little bit of protein before your workout especially if you are doing weight training. When you do strength training exercises, like lifting weights, it can create small tears in muscle fibers. Protein is needed for healing those tears. Body builders need proteins for building up the muscles bigger and stronger. Also Eating protein prior to exercise has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis.
Protein-rich foods to include before a work-out
- Boiled egg
- Milk or soy milk
Avoid sprouts or gas forming foods before exercise which can leads to bloating. Also, remember that not to eat too much before exercise as it will create discomfort.
Many times when you go to a gym, the trainer suggests you take protein supplement like whey protein or soy protein or BCAA etc. So people feel that they will get the results only if they consume these supplements. Before starting on any of these products- think of the goal with which you joined the gym.
For a common person staying fit, food is the best medicine. But, if you are doing vigorous weight loss or joining a gym for building up the muscles you can take a supplement under supervision. In case of athletes doing intense weight training for long periods of time (45 to 90 minutes), they may require a little bit of extra protein. You should consult a qualified dietician for choosing a suitable supplement for your body type.
Timing of your exercise
Gyming in the Morning
Time gap of 30 minutes to 2 hours before workout is usually suitable for all individuals. According to the timing of exercise i.e. morning or evening, food choice will be different. If your workout timing is in the morning, you probably won’t be able to eat a whole meal before you hit the gym. So a small snack or mini-breakfast should be sufficient. Like a glass of smoothie or milk with oats or dry fruit milkshake or whole fruit or boiled eggs.
Gyming in the Evening
If you are exercising later in the day, it is recommend that having a snack 30 minutes to an hour before your workout like having idli or vegetable sandwich or daliya upma or ladoo etc. If you are working out 2-3 hours after a well-balanced meal then chapatti or rice with veggies or khichdi and salad or paratha with curd are the options. Availability of food sources is also an aspect to be considered according to which you can choose your options.
Hydration should be maintained
It’s best to get your body hydrated before going to the gym. Simple way to determine your overall hydration status is to check out the color of your urine first thing in the morning. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, light yellow colored urine is a sign of appropriate hydration, while dark colored urine, indicates a deficit in fluids.
How much Water Should you drink?
Drink at least 2 cups of water 2 to 3 hours before exercise and 1 cup of water 10 to 20 minutes before working out. While exercising carry your water bottle that you can sip in between. Consider drinking 1 cup of water for every 20-30 minutes of intense physical activity, especially if you are sweating or training in a heated environment.
Can you have Infused Water?
Use of infused water or lemon water or adding electoral powder or fresh fruit juice will also additionally provide vital minerals and vitamins. Hydration will minimize the feeling of low at energy levels as also symptoms such as muscle cramps or spasms.
Post workout nutrition is also important
Eating after a workout is important to replenish the glycogen that has been depleted during your exercise. Secondly, eating protein after a workout is a must for a speedy muscle recovery, particularly after weight training. Post-workout meal should be high in complex carbohydrates loaded with healthy protein. Plus, the food contains electrolytes which you lose when you sweat.
When you don’t eat after a workout you can end up fatigued and battling low blood sugar. You’re also inhibiting your body’s repair process. If you routinely skip eating after a workout, it will be harder to reach your fitness goals.
Complex carbohydrates include
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat bread
Healthy proteins include
Meet a Qualified Sports Nutritionist
Sports nutrition is a new branch to learn. These guidelines are for the common people starting a gym or any kind of exercise to avoid confusion and misguidance. Physical fitness is not only losing weight but staying active. In addition to eating habits, it is very important to do a regular workout with a gradual increase in intensity. In case you are into competitive sports, do not skip meeting a qualified dietician.
So, my take-home message is that every person who starts a gym or do any kind of physical activity should have an idea about eating habits and it’s timing for staying fit.