Did you know when and what you eat can have an impact on your workout? Eating and exercise are connected, and you can maximize the effectiveness of your workouts by using a few tips.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. If you exercise in the morning, get up early enough to finish breakfast at least one hour before your workout. This will give you energy and raise your blood sugar. If you don’t eat, you might feel sluggish or lightheaded when you exercise. Good breakfast options include whole-grain cereals or bread, bananas and yogurt. A cup of coffee is okay too. Emphasize carbohydrates for maximum energy.
- Size matters. You want to be careful not to overeat before exercise. Eat large meals at least three to four hours before exercising. Small meals should be eaten two to three hours before exercising. You can have small snacks an hour before exercising. Eating too much can leave you sluggish, and eating too little may not give you the energy to stay strong during your workout.
- Snack well. Most people can eat small snacks right before and during exercise. It’s important to do what feels best for you. Snacks shortly before exercising probably won’t give you an energy boost, but they can help maintain blood sugar levels and prevent distracting hunger pains. Good snack options include energy bars, yogurt, low-fat granola bars and peanut butter sandwiches.
- Eat after you exercise. Eating after you exercise will help your muscles recover. You’ll want to eat a meal that contains both protein and carbohydrates within two hours, if possible. Good post-workout food choices include yogurt and fruit, peanut butter sandwiches, pasta with meatballs and chicken with brown rice.
- Drink up. Remember to drink fluids. You need adequate fluids before, during and after exercise to help prevent dehydration. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends you drink two to three cups of water before your workout, half to one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout and two to three cups after your workout for every pound of weight you lose during the workout.
The duration and intensity of your workout will determine how often and what you should eat and drink. Pay attention to how you feel during your workout, as well as your overall performance. Let your body guide you on which eating habits work best for you.John Murphy, M.D., is a family medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare in Sparta.