You’ve got your shorts, T-shirt and tennis shoes on , and you’re ready to hit the gym. A few minutes into your workout you start feeling dizzy and lightheaded. This is because you were missing an important item to get the most out of your workout – food. Whether you are heading to the gym to lift some weights, a studio to practice yoga or outside to go for a run, all of these workouts should be energized with food. And let’s not forget to follow up with proper nutrition. The foods we eat after a workout are just as important as those we eat before – a pre-workout snack helps fuel our bodies and the post-workout snack starts the recovery process for our muscles.
Sometimes it can be hard to remember what kinds of snacks to reach for, so consider using these tips as a guide:
Think about the size and nutritional components of your pre-workout snack. You don’t want to feel sluggish or bloated during a workout, so the key is to eat something small that is easily digestible. Ideally, plan to have your snack one to two hours before exercising. Generally, this includes drinking water and eating healthy carbs like peanut butter toast, fruits and select vegetables or fat-free yogurt. If you are going to lift weights, add a bit more protein to help with muscle repair and growth.
After sweating it out, refuel your body within the next half hour. Feel free to grab a carbohydrate and protein. At this point, your body has used up the energizing sugars also known as glucose. Depending on the intensity of your workout, most of your body’s stored form of glucose, known as glycogen, has been used as an additional source of energy. Eating carbohydrates will replenish these stores. Add more protein to limit post-exercise muscle damage. Some snack choices that combine both carbohydrates and protein include: Yogurt and fruit, chocolate milk or a protein shake.
In addition to foods, ensure you are hydrating your body with water, a sports drink or milk. Workouts drain your body of more than just water; sweat contains amino acids, fat and sodium among other components. If these aren’t replenished it may lead to mild dehydration, which can affect your mood, concentration and energy levels.
For low to moderate intensity activity, water may be sufficient. But a sports drink, like Gatorade, containing carbohydrates and electrolytes will be absorbed by your body more quickly. However, a study found if you consume food and fluids together following a workout, the choice of water, a sports drink or a milk-based beverage doesn’t make a difference.
What to Avoid
Eating or drinking the wrong thing before may result in a poor workout. If you can, avoid eating or drinking the following:
- Carbonated drinks – these may make you feel gassy and bloated.
- Fiber-rich foods – foods like broccoli or lentils take longer to digest, drawing blood to your digestive system. During a workout, you want your blood flowing to your muscles rather than your gut.
- Nuts – Like high-fiber foods, foods high in fat also digest slower, causing blood to flow to the gut.
- Spicy Foods – this may trigger heartburn or acid reflux during a workout.