Eating too much at the wrong time can cause stomach cramping and undesirable weight gain. Also, not eating enough can leave you short on gas, with muscle cramps or worse yet, injured.
Good nutrition is critical to fuelling your exercise and it can be a balancing act to get it right.
There are three different times that you need to fuel: before, during and after exercise. Each is equally important if you want the experience to be enjoyable and get the highest payback for your efforts.
Fat takes longer to digest than protein, and carbohydrates digest the fastest. When you exercise, blood is channelled away from the stomach to working muscles and organs. Anything remaining in the stomach when exercise intensity rises becomes very uncomfortable and highly distracting.
Solid foods take approximately 1-4 hours to pass through the stomach, whereas most liquids will empty in 20 minutes. Therefore, the best pre-exercise meal should be hydrating, rich in carbohydrate and low in fat. Also, learn what your body can tolerate too. While some of you might enjoy a moderately sized traditional meal before exercise, others may do better with 2 cups of liquid.
Water is the perfect beverage to keep you hydrated when you exercise. It’s also free, portable and the environmentally friendly choice. So, you it is recommended to avoid electrolyte drinks during workouts.
For those of you who do need to fuel for extended play:
- 3-8 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes when exercising < 60 minutes
- 3-8 ounces of sports beverage every 15-20 minutes when exercising > 60 minute
It is also recommended to periodically measure your sweat rate. This can be done by weighing yourself before and after workout to get an idea of how much fluid you lose. Fluid loss after workout should be minimum as body fluids helps maintain blood flow with oxygen, electrolytes and nutrients for strong muscle communication.
Refuel within 30 - 45 minutes of exercise. This is when your blood flow is the greatest and muscles are like a sponge, soaking up fluid, electrolytes and nutrients that you’ve exhausted in your workout.
If you are looking out for weight loss, it is recommend backing up your workout into a meal so that you don’t compromise the calorie deficit needed to lose weight.
But if you workout 3-4 times per week trying to maintain a basic level of fitness, you can focus on rehydrating with water or one cup of low fat milk.
For the athlete who is training to prepare for their next athletic event, a 3:1 carbohydrate: protein ratio is recommended. The carbohydrate is used to refuel muscle glycogen (energy) stores and the protein helps rebuild muscle tissue.
If you have more questions on how to properly fuel before, during and after exercise, contact a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. They are the experts in providing science based nutrition answers for all of your exercise needs.
Good Luck, have a great workout!