Food and exercise: 5 tips to maximize your exercises

Knowing when and what to eat can make a difference in your exercises. Understand the connection between food and exercise.

Food and exercise go hand in hand. What you eat and when you do it can greatly influence how you feel when you exercise, whether you train casually or for a competition. Keep in mind these tips on diet and exercise.

1. Eat a healthy breakfast

If you do physical activity in the morning, get up early enough to finish breakfast at least one hour before exercising. You must be well fed to train. According to studies, eating or drinking carbohydrates before doing physical activity can improve performance during training and may allow you to exercise longer or with greater intensity. If you do not eat, you may feel lazy or stunned when you exercise.

If you plan to do physical activity within an hour after having breakfast, eat a light breakfast or drink something, like a sports drink. Emphasize carbohydrates for greater energy.

The good breakfast options are the following:

  • Whole grain breads or cereals
  • Low fat milk
  • Juice
  • A banana
  • Yogurt
  • A pancake

Remember that if you usually drink coffee in the morning, it is good to have a cup before exercising. Also, you should know that whenever you try a food or drink for the first time before doing physical activity, you may have an upset stomach.

2. Size matters
Be careful not to eat too much before exercising. The general guidelines suggest the following:

  • Abundant meals. Consume them, at least, three or four hours before exercising.
  • Small meals or snacks. Consume them approximately one to three hours before exercising.

Eating too much before exercising can leave you feeling lazy. If you eat too little, you may not have the energy you need to stay strong enough during training

3. Consume refreshments

Most people can eat small snacks before and during physical activity. The key is how you feel. Do what gives you the best results. The refreshments you consume before exercising probably will not give you more energy if the training lasts less than 60 minutes, but can prevent the feeling of hunger. If your training lasts more than 60 minutes, you could get benefits by consuming a high carbohydrate food or drink while you exercise. Some good snack options are the following:

  • An energy bar
  • A banana, apple or other fresh fruit
  • The yogurt
  • Fruit shake
  • A bagel or whole wheat crackers
  • A granola bar with low fat content
  • A peanut butter sandwich
  • Diluted juice or sports drink
  • Eating a healthy snack is important, especially if you plan to train for several hours after a meal.

4. Eat after exercising

To help the muscles recover and replenish glycogen stores, eat a meal that contains carbohydrates and protein within two hours of the exercise session if possible. Good food choices for after training include the following:

  • Yogurt and fruits
  • A peanut butter sandwich
  • Salty cookies with bow shape and milk with chocolate with low fat content
  • Recovery shake for after training
  • Turkey on wholemeal bread with vegetables

5. Drink liquids
Do not forget to drink liquids. You should drink the right amount of fluid before, during and after exercising to prevent dehydration.

To stay well hydrated during exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you do the following:

  • Drink about 2 or 3 glasses (between 473 ml and 710 ml) of water between two and three hours before training.
  • During training, drink between half and 1 cup (118 to 237 milliliters) of water every 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust the quantities according to the size of your body and the weather.
  • Drink between 2 and 3 cups (473 milliliters to 710 milliliters) of water after exercise for every pound (0.5 kg) of weight you lose during exercise.

In general, water is the best way to replenish lost fluid. However, if you exercise for more than 60 minutes, take a sports drink. Sports drinks can help you maintain your body’s electrolyte balance and give you a little more energy, as they contain carbohydrates.

Let the experience guide you
Keep in mind that the duration and intensity of your activity will determine what you should eat and drink, and how often. For example, you will need more energy from food to run a marathon than to walk a few miles. Also, try not to incorporate any new products before a long-term sports event. It is best done before to see how the system tolerates food.

When it comes to eating and exercising, all people are different. Therefore, pay attention to how you feel during training and your overall performance. Let your experience guide you to know what eating habits are best for you before and after exercise. Consider keeping track of how the body reacts with meals and snacks, and being able to adapt your diet to achieve optimal performance.

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