Everyone seems to have an opinion about what to eat before exercise. Information abounds. Personal trainers, magazines, news media, coaches, and every person in the gym have a philosophy about this topic.
Some say protein is essential to build muscle; others tout the importance of carbohydrates for immediate energy. Everyone agrees that water is important, but when and how to consume it varies, depending on whom you ask. Much research is performed with financial support from industry, with sometimes questionable credibility. The following guidelines are based on current nutrition research and strong empirical data.
For the majority of exercisers, those who perform cardiovascular or light strength training as physical activity for an average of 35-40 minutes, a few days a week, the most important thing is overall good nutrition. A strong foundation of a healthful diet is enough to provide sufficient energy, prevent fatigue, and aid in cardiovascular and muscle work. A simple pre-exercise snack with plenty of water should fuel the body sufficiently. The best pre-workout meal is one that works best for the individual and is not digested too rapidly.
Try these ideas:
? A banana with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
? Low-fat yogurt and a piece of fruit
? Oatmeal made with skim milk and fruit
? Trail mix with nuts and fruit
? Granola with low-fat milk and fruit
? A smoothie made with low-fat yogurt, fresh
fruit, and wheat germ or flax meal
Sip water throughout the activity and after exercise is completed.
Exercisers or athletes in training may require a more substantial meal or snack to optimize performance. The best pre-workout meal for athletes is one that is full of nutritious and wholesome foods, but, most importantly, it is one that is tried and true for them. Factors that may contribute to how well a pre-workout meal is tolerated include:
? Gastric motility and emptying time
? Allergies and intolerances
? Type of training
? Overall diet
? Dietary intake during exercise
? Genetic factors
Pre-workout meal tips
The following are some ideas that you may
want to try:
? Choose high-carbohydrate, low-fat foods—whole-grain, high-fiber foods, consumed 1 hour prior to exercise, are ideal; some
– Breads – Cereals
– Muffins – Yogurt
– Oatmeal – Beans
– Crackers – Pasta
? Avoid high-fat protein sources, such as fried meats, cheese, and hamburgers, because they take longer to empty from the stomach and may contribute to a sluggish or nauseated feeling
? Take time to digest your pre-workout meal—the blood used to digest foods in the stomach is required in the muscles for exercise; so, will remain in the digestive tract longer if improper time for digestion is allowed
? Eat familiar foods prior to competitions and intense practices
? Use energy bars and protein shakes as alternatives to whole foods, but realize that the needed calories come primarily from sugars– The energy boost does not come from consuming the ingredients in these products, but from consuming the 200-300 calories needed in a pre-workout meal
– These products are not more digestible than whole foods
– Adequate water consumption is essential for complete digestion