Tags: eat | before | after | exercise

Better to eat Before or After Exercise?

Thursday, 21 Nov 2013 04:50 PM

By Nick Tate

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Is it better to eat before or after a workout? Sports scientists have long debated whether carb-loading or protein meals are the best way to prepare for athletic activity and which foods are best to eat after a strenuous workout. But a new report, published by the research-based Website The Conversation, attempts to put the debate to rest.

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The conclusion: Eating before exercising is important for not only preparing for exercise, but is also key to fueling recovery from athletic activity — especially in highly competitive situations.

"Food contains potential energy or fuel that helps muscles continue to contract during exercise, especially exercise of long duration [more than 60 minutes]," according to the report on the Website, which is an independent source of news and views, based on academic and research findings. "But it's common for people to not eat before exercise because they tend to be concerned it will make them feel sluggish, or cause cramps, or an upset stomach."

Such common misconceptions may cause some athletes to ignore the majority of nutritional guidelines that recommend people eat some form of food in the hours before exercise, especially carbohydrate or sugar, which are broken down quickly to provide energy that will keep muscles functioning.

Other things to keep in mind about food and exercise:
  • Be sure to eat an hour or two before a strenuous workout so the body can break down the fuel and nutrients in food, absorb it, and move it to the muscles through the blood. During exercise, blood shifts away from the digestive track to the muscles, leaving less blood to aid digestion.
  • Be aware that fatty foods, protein, and fiber take longer to digest than other foods and may increase the risk of stomach discomfort during exercise because they remains in your stomach and are not absorbed.
  • Bigger portions of food will also obviously take longer to digest, so if you’re going to eat immediately before exercise, go for a small amount of carbohydrate foods, such a sports drink.
  • It is best not to eat too much before running or swimming, or when you intend to exercise strenuously, because there is considerable motion of the stomach and contents during such activities. In such cases, it is best to wait until after a hard workout to have a big meal to help your body recover.
  • Be sure to replace muscle glycogen stores that are depleted during exercise by consuming simple sugars, such as fruit and sports drinks, after a workout.
  • The most important nutritional strategy after working out is fluid replacement. Drink water, juice, or carbohydrate-rich sports drinks to replace fluid lost during exercise through sweat.

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