Nutrition / Food

Should You Eat Before Or After A Workout?

Body exercise and nutrition are intertwined. Your body relies on proper nutrition for optimum performance during exercise. The issue of whether to eat before or after exercise remains debatable. Before and after exercise, your body requires and an adequate supply of nutrients to provide energy, repair, and build your muscles.

As you consider whether to eat before or after exercise, be careful not to fall in the trap of compulsive eating. Some eating habits that fall under the binge eating disorder criteria include recurrent episodes of overeating, eating extraordinary portions of meals frequently, eating until you’re completely full, inability to control your craving for food, eating huge portions of food when not hungry, and eating faster than usual. It is also important to remember that body appearance and weight aren’t used to diagnose binge eating.

According to Dr. Nancy Cohen, who heads the department of nutrition at the University of Massachusetts, all exercisers follow the same routine when fueling their bodies but each person’s nutritional needs may need a few twists to fit their personal needs.

What does your body require to build muscles?

“If you want to build your muscles and shed a few calories, you’ll need to eat a meal with high quantities of both proteins and carbs before starting exercise,” says Cohen. Carbs will provide glycogen your body needs for jogging, your gym session or yoga. If you fail to take an adequate supply of carbohydrates before exercise, your muscles will lack the energy necessary for the workout.

Complex carbohydrates are ideal for exercise

It may seem strange to feed on a heavy-carb diet before hitting the gym, but do you know a meal with complex carbs such as lentils, starchy vegetables, and beans will offer the fuel you need for the exercise, besides fiber? In contrast to refined carbohydrates like cookies, white bread, and fast foods, complex carbs will have a minimum effect on weight gain and an increased appetite.

Avoid high-fat diet before exercise

Cohen prohibits a high-fat diet before exercise since it will slow digestion. According to her, you require proteins to support your muscles during and after the workout. Your body needs amino acids to rebuild your muscles; thus your meal must contain the essential amino acids.

Protein and exercise

You can get all the required amino acids from animal sources such as lean meat or chicken, says Cohen. You can source your proteins from grains such as beans, bulgur, and quinoa though you’ll not get the “complete” proteins. If you want to get your entire proteins from plant sources, you’ll need to combine several of these grains, she adds.

Cohen recommends athletes and bodybuilders to take more proteins an hour or two after exercise. Though some nutritionists advise one to ingest lots of protein shakes after intake of iron, it ought not to be so.

Dr. Rob Danoff, a physician with Aria Health Systems with a bias on nutrition and sports medicine, says that the body—more so the kidneys—have a limit on the proteins they can handle each day. Researchers have concluded that 1 kilogram/body weight is adequate for maximum muscle growth. It means, if you weigh 175 pounds, you’ll need 80 grams of proteins for sufficient muscle growth each day.

For example, a single cut of red meat or a one sizeable chicken breast has roughly 60 grams of proteins. Therefore ingesting of a massive protein shake will overwhelm your kidneys with proteins that can’t handle beside your muscles don’t require such huge amounts of proteins. The high intake of proteins can lead to increased acidity in your blood, besides the increased risk of kidney damage. Increased acidity in the blood will lead to weak bones, says Dr. Danoff.

What to eat before a workout

Timing is critical when you consider eating before or after a workout. You need energy for your exercise, especially if it’ll be intense. Carbs will supply the necessary energy required for the activity. Examples of carbohydrates you can take before workout include: Oatmeal, crackers, a piece of fruit, dried fruit, rice cake, a granola bar.

Proteins are, especially for strength training. In these workouts, your muscle will tear and will need to rebuild. Consider protein foods such as nuts, Greek yogurt, Soy milk, and a piece of turkey or a boiled egg. Additionally, drink a cup or two of water before the exercise.

Post workout diet

After your workout, you’ll lose lots of calories and water. Your muscle also needs to rebuild. You post workout diet should comprise carbs, proteins, foods rich in electrolytes and water for rehydration. Immediately after the workout, you can grab a snack before taking your meal 2 to 3 hours later.

Carbs you can take after a workout include quinoa, nuts, brown rice, and whole bread Protein foods include beans, fish and tofu. You’ll need to take adequate water to replenish the fluids you’ve lost through sweating.

As you focus on pre and post workout meals, you should never forget to include water intake. Cellular metabolism is highly dependent on water. Taking water should form your first habit each day you wake up since you lose lots of water during the night. Dehydration will affect your mood, concentration and workout performance.

You need to eat before and after the workout, but timing is the essential thing. Your pre-workout meals should be at least 30 minutes to 3 hours before the session. The quantities of the pre and post workout meal will also differ. For example, you need to take a snack immediately after your workout to replace the lost energy.

Food Nutrition


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