By Stephanie Lin
It’s fairly common knowledge that before and after a workout, foods with high-sugar contents are not recommended, while sufficient water and foods high in protein and carbohydrates are best. When put in different situations before and after workouts with varying intensities, though, this sort of vague knowledge won’t always be useful. The food you should eat and the amount of water you should take in varies with each workout, the time you have before exercising, and how you feel afterward. This guide is handy for the average exerciser, but dietary needs change from person to person.
Before any workout, you definitely need to be eating something, as you cannot exercise your muscles when you have no energy to use. Carbohydrates are recommended, but take them a long while before your workout, since these sugars tend to burn for a long period of time and provide you with a stable source of energy. Hydrating at all times is required at any time of the day before and after any exercise. Once you start working out, water evaporates from your skin quickly, which can cause quick dehydration. Water is also essential to every function of the body, so having a good amount of it in you is necessary. You should also avoid saturated fats and proteins, as they slow down digestion and take away oxygen from the blood.
If you are running low on time and had not taken carbs hours before exercise, then you should eat fruits. Sugars in fruit are easily digestible as they are not as complex as the sugars in carbohydrates and therefore provide quick energy.
The night before a large, intense workout or an athletic competition, it is recommended that you consume large amounts of carbohydrates and proteins. Don’t gorge yourself, but eat slightly more than you normally would, since you will exert more energy than usual the day after. Start hydrating two days before the large event. You will lose a lot of water in the event, so keeping the water constantly moving in your system can guarantee that you will have enough water to stave off dehydration and the possibility of damaging your body during the intense workout. Before the event, do not eat any dairy products or foods with high fat or sugar content. If you eat dairy, there is a chance that you might vomit while exercising. Foods packed with easily digested, high calorie sugars and lipids might give you that boost in energy, but it is not a reliable energy source and burns out too quickly during an intense workout. Also remember to never overeat before any workout, since you may get cramps or vomit.
Following these guidelines will allow the average person to feel well-energized before, during, and after a workout, but it’s important to note that every person is built differently and might benefit from other eating habits. Ultimately, trial and error is the best way to customize your ideal routine.