Everybody knows that we should be doing more exercise; it’s a crucial part of staying healthy. But what should we eat beforehand? If we eat too much, our stomach is full, and we can’t do the sit ups we were planning on doing. However, running on an empty stomach quickly makes us not achieve the times we know we can. What foods should we consume to properly fuel our body for a physical activity?
Before we jump into it, he’s a quick summary of the different types of fuel our body has access to, in a very simplified manner:
- Carbohydrates (sugar) are the most quickly available source of energy, but they also run out the quickest. It takes approx. 30 minutes for it to be available for your body to use.
- Protein is the “medium” length source of energy. It takes approx. 2 hours for it to be available for your body to use. It is also well-known for tissue repairs, to increase muscle mass.
- Lipids (fats) are long term energy, meant to keep us alive during long stretches of starvation. It takes approx. 4-6 hours for your body to digest.
When it comes to preparing for an exercise, such as a hockey game or a gym workout, you’re going to want energy readily available and that lasts until the end of your event. Here are a few tips to fuel your body BEFORE a workout:
ü Your last full meal should be 2-4 hours before your workout, so that your body’s energy solely goes to the exercise at hand instead of digestion… and indigestion!
ü Anything eaten 30 minutes to 2 hours before your event should be 75% carbohydrates (ex: fruit is a very good option, natural, quickly absorbed and readily available)
ü Drink lots of water before AND during the event, so your cells are fully hydrated and working properly, to work at their full potential.
- Whole grain cereal with a banana
- Yogurt with granola and berries
- Apple slices with natural nut butter
- Oatmeal with a banana or berries
- 3-4 Energy balls
And what do we do after the workout, when we feel like tearing down the pantry and emptying the fridge? You just used up your body’s stores of glucose (sugar), glycogen (stored sugar) and available protein. You also need more protein for muscle repair. Here are a few tips to fuel your body AFTER a workout:
ü Choose a snack high in protein AND carbohydrates. The carbs will replenish your body’s storage of glycogen, while the protein will restore the muscle tissue that was used.
ü It is best to wait a half hour after exercising to eat, to let your fight-or-flight system calm down and your rest-and-digest system kick in.
ü It’s recommended to eat within 2 hours of exercising to absorb the most out of your food.
ü Remember to properly hydrate after your workout. You lost a lot of water through sweat, so it’s crucial to replace it!
What if your hockey game is at 6:00 PM, right during suppertime? Do we eat an early supper? Do we wait and eat after the game?
What I often recommend when a full meal is too close to the physical activity is to cut the meal in half: eat half of it beforehand, focusing mostly on carbs (bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, etc.), and the second half after, focusing mostly on protein. Another option is to have 2 snacks, such as yogurt and a fruit beforehand, and chocolate milk and a handful of nuts afterwards.
If you have any other questions on the topic, let me know! There’s a world of possibilities when it comes to sports nutrition, such as exercise and weight loss, meal plans, tournament days, endurance nutrition, supplements, ergogenic products, carb loading, etc. You can also take advantage of a FREE EXPRESS CONSULTATION at my nutrition consultation clinic! 15 minutes with your favorite dietitian to take the first step to a healthier you!