What a person consumes before, during and after exercise is important for comfort and performance during exercise. Before exercise, we should eat minimum 1 hour prior to have the fuel needed for the activity and it can prevent the distracting symptoms of hunger during exercise. The major source of fuel for active muscles is carbohydrates which gets stored in the muscles as glycogen. This is one reason that the post-exercise meal is so important to recovery and being ready for the next exercise session.
Carbohydrates or carbs are the fuel of choice for muscles. In muscle, carbs are stored as glycogen where they can be used during exercise to provide energy and keep blood sugar levels even. Carbohydrates are important for endurance athletes as well as body builders and for anyone who trains hard on a regular basis.
Whole grains, vegetables and fruits are the best sources of carbohydrates because they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Eating these foods throughout the day will keep you well fueled, especially during your physical activity.
Protein is important in exercise for building and repairing muscle, but it is also needed for a healthy immune system. Protein can do all of these things as long as you eat enough calories to meet your energy needs. If you restrict calories too much, protein is burned for energy when carbohydrates are limited. But just remember, if you overeat anything, including protein, it will be stored as fat. Eating the right amount and balance of foods will ensure the best results for any exercise program. My rule of thumb is eating protein and carbs the size of the palm of my hand 5-6 times per day.
A heart healthy diet for active people consists of 20 to 30% of calories coming from healthy fats. If you eat too much bad fat you can increase your risk for heart disease, but too little fat can actually inhibit athletic performance. It is also important to include more plant fats, which are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil, canola oil, avocadoes, and peanut butter, and fewer animal fats, which can be higher in saturated fats, such as whole milk, cheese, ice cream, high fat beef and pork. Limiting trans fatty acids like in fried foods can also reduce your risk for heart disease.
Water and other fluids are important for everyone, but when you're active, enough fluids are crucial for the extra work you're doing, because they help to:
1. Transport glucose in the blood to working muscles and carry away metabolic by-products
2. Eliminate metabolic waste products in urine
3. Regulate body temperature through sweating
4. Cushion joints
1. Start hydrating early by drinking 1-2 cups of water in the morning
2. Keep a water bottle with you all day long
3. Drink before you get thirsty
4. Drink 1-2 cups of fluid 30 minutes before exercise
5. Drink ½ - 1 cup of fluid for every 15 minutes of exercise
6. Keep drinking even after your thirst is quenched
Symptoms of dehydration include:
1. Increased body temperature
5. Rapid pulse
6. Nausea and dizziness
Some foods to avoid before exercise are any foods with a lot of fat that can be difficult to digest and remain in the stomach for a long time. Some fatty foods can cause cramping and discomfort are meats, doughnuts, fries, potato chips, and candy bars. These should be avoided in a pre-exercise meal. Also over-eating as well can cause an upset stomach and vomitting during exercise. Trust me, I have seen this happen!