probably the question I have been asked most often by athletes.
Although an important consideration, I usually encourage athletes
to look not only at what they are eating before exercise but what
they eat afterwards, to promote recovery and what they eat all
the time to support their training.
most sports, what is consumed immediately before exercise is not
going to be a major source of energy for the exercise session.
More important goals for the pre-exercise meal are preventing
hunger before and during the event, topping up muscle (a little)
and liver (mostly) glycogen or energy stores, ensuring an adequate
blood sugar level, supplying food that is quickly and easily digested
and maximizing fluid levels, especially if dehydration risk is
high during exercise.
meals should have a high carbohydrate content. Roughly 65 to 70
percent of the calories in the meal should come from carbohydrate
foods like vegetables, fruit, bread, cereals, rice or other grain
products. The meal should contain a small amount of protein (no
more than 15 percent of calories) and little or no fat. Fat takes
longer to digest and uses more energy in the process. If time
is of the essence, pre-exercise meals should also be reasonably
low in fibre so they can be digested more readily.
high-sugar foods are to be consumes, they should either be eaten
within about five to ten minutes of the exercise session or forty-five
minutes or longer before. Otherwise an undesirable rise in insulin
levels followed by a drop in blood sugar and energy can occur.
something familiar is a critical issue before an important competition.
This is not the time to experiment with a new energy bar or spicy
bean burritos if these are not items you normally eat and are
used to digesting.
most important issue in pre-exercise eating is how much time you
have between your meal and the start of your exercise session.
It takes about three to four hours for a large meal (about 1,000-1,500
calories) to be digested. This is why a hockey player would eat
his or her dinner by about 4 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game start. A smaller
meal like lunch, about 600 calories, takes about two to three
hours to be digested and turned into energy. One hour is adequate
for a liquid meal or snack under about 300 calories. The hockey
player mentioned above may choose to have a snack at about 6 p.m.
to top up energy.
given you some examples of pre-exercise meals broken down by time
frame. If you have one hour or less:
shake made of soft tofu, fruit and juice
shake made of yogurt, fruit and juice
and a bagel or piece of bread
piece of vegetable-based pizza
you have two to three hours or more:
milk and a piece of fruit
vegetables and a lean meat sauce
rice and fish or chicken
turkey and vegetable sandwich
Vegetable-bean soup, crackers and milk
one of the goals of your exercise program is to maximize fat loss,
aim to allow at least one hour between eating and the start of
your exercise session. If you are working out first thing
in the morning and canít eat a whole meal, have a small snack
like a piece of fruit, yogurt or juice and eat your breakfast
meal after the session.
Almost more important than what you eat before exercising
is how much time you have. Experiment with different foods
and the timing of eating before exercise to determine what works
best for you.
A light, easy-to-digest carbohydrate snack is the best pre-exercise
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