When you watch sport you may notice for example that tennis players eat bananas during a match or cyclists in the Tour de France love chugging energy drinks.
The foods and drinks that athletes drink are all carefully planned to help them with their performance. It is important to eat a healthy, balanced diet with the right mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. When exercising, your body needs extra energy because it’s working harder. This extra energy helps to maintain your body weight, keep your bones strong and maximise how well you train and perform. If your not getting enough energy in your diet, you will feel fatigued, and may well be at an increased risk of illness and injury. It’s also important to make sure that you stay well-hydrated when you exercise.
Before You Exercise
What you eat before exercising will determine how much energy you have and how well you perform. If you don’t eat the right foods it may mean that you struggle to complete your workout and aren’t able to do your best.
The best way to begin is to eat a meal containing plenty of carbohydrate three to four hours before exercising. This will increase both your blood glucose and your glycogen levels. Its best to ensure that whatever you eat before exercising also contains a moderate amount of protein, this will help with recovery after exercise. Keeping it low in fat and fibre will help to prevent any digestive problems, such as stomach pain and feeling sick.
If the exercise your participating in is extremely strenuous, it may be beneficial to have a small snack one to two hours beforehand. Similarly, if you don’t have much time before you start, you might want to eat something lighter. This should also be high in carbohydrate, if your in a rush foods that are higher in sugar are easier to digest and provide energy more quickly.
You may need to experiment with the timings of your pre-exercise meal or snack to make sure that you don’t feel any discomfort once you start exercising.
Here are some ideas for snacks and meals to have before you exercise:
Pre Exercise Meals:
Sandwich filled with chicken, Pasta with tomato-based sauce and vegetables, Baked beans on toast, Porridge made with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.
Pre Exercise Snacks:
Banana, A small pot of yoghurt, a Cereal or Energy bar, A light smoothie made from skimmed or semi skimmed milk.
Eating during exercise can help to provide glucose to your working muscles, this stops you from getting tired too quickly and increases your endurance and performance. How much you need depends on how long you’re active for and is especially important when you’re exercising continuously for over an hour.
If you’re doing intense exercise for over an hour, try to eat 30 to 60g of carbohydrate every hour. You can either get this from carbohydrate-rich food that is easy to digest, such as a cereal bar, but you may find it easier to get it from an Isotonic sports drink. If you are eating, its best to do it in small amounts at intervals, rather than all in one go. It’s also important to drink water while you’re exercising to prevent you from getting dehydrated.
The table below has some ideas for snacks during exercise:
|Food or drink||Portion size providing 30g carbohydrate|
|Bananas||One to two (medium-sized)|
|Isotonic sports drink||500ml|
|Cereal bar||One bar|
It’s really important that you eat soon after exercise to replenish your stores of glycogen. The amount to eat will depend on how long and how hard you have been exercising, and when you plan to exercise next.
Try to eat within the first 30 minutes after exercising and aim to eat around 1g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight every hour for up to four hours afterwards. For example, if you weigh 60kg you need to eat about 60g of carbohydrate. This may be preferable in the form of a high-carbohydrate drink if you don’t feel like eating straight after exercising.
If you don’t plan to workout for a day or so, ensuring your next meal contains plenty of carbohydrate should be enough to top up your glycogen stores. Protein is also important to eat after exercising due to its ability to build and repair your muscle tissue.
Good Post Exercise Snacks are:
Fruit Yoghurt, A sports bar rich in carbs and protein, A Fruit Smoothie, Nuts and Dried fruits.
In general, if you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you should get all the necessary vitamins and minerals your body requires. You shouldn’t need to take supplements unless you have specific medical or nutritional needs.
If you require any more nutritional information, you may find our post about a high protein diet on a low budget useful. You may also wish to look over our information on energy boosting foods. For all your martial arts equipment needs please visit our main site.
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