Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Make Good Food Choices Before You Exercise

What should you eat before exercise? It depends how much time you have. The goal in selecting the right food is to avoid distracting the body with the job of digestion while you are exercising.

If there's an hour or less between eating and exercise, eat something light-just enough to fuel the workout. Think about eating a small banana, half a cup of yogurt, half a cup of a smoothie or half an energy bar along with water. This works well if you exercise first thing in the morning and don't have much appetite.

If you have at least two hours before exercising, eat a small balanced meal. A bowl of cereal with a piece of fruit or a small lunch are good options.

With three hours or more, you can eat a larger meal. Professional hockey players, for example, eat a well-balanced dinner about four hours before a game and top up with a light snack closer to start time.

During exercise lasting less than about 90 minutes, especially when weight loss is the goal, the only nutritional issue to consider is hydration. Aim to have about one-quarter to one-half cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. This reduces fatigue and allows you to push harder longer.

For exercise beyond 90 minutes, hydrate and replace carbohydrates. Think of distance runners. They ideally take in about 30 to 60 grams of easy-to-digest carbs per hour.
After exercise, replace lost fluids by drinking water. Maximize food quality after exercise as this is the fuel that helps cells recover from the grind.

If there's only time for a beverage, about one cup of milk or chocolate milk is a logical choice. It hydrates while supplying carbohydrate and protein energy, along with electrolytes lost in sweat such as sodium and calcium.

If you're debating whether to exercise before or after eating a meal, for weight loss, exercise first. Activity boosts metabolism, the body's ability to burn calories. At least in theory, food eaten after exercise is burned more efficiently.

Source:Adapted from article written by Patricia Chuey, March 15, 2011, Edmonton Journal

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