Few things are worse than working out or competing on an empty stomach, with your mind on food than fitness. Any kind of workout must be combined with a healthy nutrition plan, as what you eat can affect your performance and post-routine rate of recovery. Fuelling your body with the right nutrients prior to exercise, therefore, will give you the energy and strength you need to perform better.
When it comes to pre-workout meals, carbohydrates are the main component, as they are stored in the muscles and liver as a reserve source of energy called glycogen. They act as a quick source of fuel to our body and are easy to digest. Note that the type of carbs make a difference. It may take anywhere between 1-4 hours for some carbs to pass through the stomach and give energy.
For example, complex carbohydrates like potato, pasta, oats and bread take longer to digest (up to four hours), so make sure to have these foods at least three hours before your workout. If you only have an hour before you work out, stick to simple sugars present in sports drinks, dates, raisins, and bananas, as these are easily digested and absorbed into the bloodstream.
One should also be mindful of the amount of carbs present in a pre-workout meal, which should make up no more than two-thirds the size of their normal meal. This way, one is not overloading the stomach and slowing down performance. Give yourself at least 15-20 mins to eat this meal in a relaxed manner.
There are certain foods which should not be had before a sports event or workout, as they may drastically affect your performance.
High-fibre foods: Whole-grain foods, and vegetables, legumes and fruits that are high in fibre can cause gastrointestinal distress or diarrhea. These foods are excellent and healthy food choices, but having them before exercise may be a poor choice.
High-fat and protein foods: Foods with a lot of fat — such as fried foods, cheese, or hamburgers — digest slowly and will make you feel sluggish. High-fat foods take a minimum of seven hours to digest and can also lead to gastrointestinal cramping.
Caffeine: Coffee or other caffeinated beverages can cause stomach issues or diarrhea. Stick to plain water or electrolyte-based fluids like isotonic drinks.
Gas-forming and spicy foods: Foods like broccoli, beans, legumes and cabbage can make you uncomfortable while exercising. Spicy foods can cause heartburn or reflux while doing any kind of cardio activity. Opt for simply-salted, mild flavoured foods.
Timing your pre-workout meals is the key for optimum performance. Plan ahead and you won’t have to be rushed or stressed before your workout.
1 hour before workout: 1 cup sports drink, ‘cranapple’ juice, grapes, banana, tomatoes, or zucchini.
3-4 hours before workout: A bagel, pancakes, cold cereals, pasta, sandwiches, English muffins, baked potatoes, rice, spaghetti with red sauce, or pohe.
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