What’s the right fuel before you exercise?
Everyone knows you need energy to exercise, but how do we get that energy?
We have to make sure we have eaten adequately before any workout and be sure to refuel afterwards.
The amount of food we need varies according to age, sex, weight and activity level. The rate at which you burn calories depends not only on the type of exercise you do, but also how vigorously you do it.
Start by dividing your calories between carbohydrates, protein and fat, also called macros.
Carbohydrates — sugars and starches — are broken down by the body into glucose, which muscles use for energy. Excess carbs are stored in the liver and tissues as glycogen, and released as needed.
It’s glycogen that provides the energy for high-intensity exercise and prolonged endurance. Some examples of carbohydrates are wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables, pasta and rice.
Protein should be a major part of each of your meals because it will help slow absorption of carbohydrates. Fish, eggs, chicken, meat and legumes are excellent sources of protein.
You need some fat in your daily diet too. Avocados which are plentiful right now, nuts, chia seeds and olive oil are some good examples of healthy fats.
Try to have a combination of items from all three of these food groups at each of your meals. For a healthy breakfast, make sure it’s high-protein, high-fibre. The easiest lunch might be a sandwich made with lean meat, poultry or fish on wholegrain bread, with raw veggies and fruit on the side. Protein and energy bars can be useful, but don’t use them as a meal replacement.
Look for bars with at least ten grams of protein, low sugar and some carbohydrates, rather than products with high protein content and hardly any carbohydrates.
• Meal timing
If you exercise in the morning and don’t have something to eat first you can use up all of your stored energy. If you’d rather not have breakfast before you exercise, try eating a small piece of fruit for a little quick energy.
If you’re planning a strenuous workout, eat a meal high in carbohydrates at least three to four hours beforehand. Choose foods that are easily digested.
It’s super important to drink fluids before, during and after exercising. If you exercise strenuously, try to drink fluids even if you’re not thirsty. Water is a great choice for most activities. If you exercise continuously for 90 minutes or more, a sports drink that contains electrolytes and carbohydrates may be beneficial.
Caffeinated drinks may give you energy, but can also be dehydrating.
Try and drink an equal volume of water if you drink coffee or another caffeinated beverage.
The bottom line on fuelling for exercise? If you drink plenty of fluids and eat regular meals that include carbohydrates, protein, and fat, you should have all the energy you need for your exercise plans.
Stay fuelled and B-Active for life!
• Betty Doyling is a certified fitness trainer and figure competitor with over a decade’s experience. Look for B.ActiveForLife on Facebook
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