Being fit and healthy is not just about doing the right workout, it also means eating the right foods. Certain foods will help you get ready for exercise, and recover quickly after a workout.

But it is important to work out what is best for you – eating too soon before a workout will make you feel uncomfortable and sluggish, while exercising on an empty stomach can leave you feeling weak.

It is best not to eat anything for two hours before a workout to give your body time to digest the food, so what should we be eating to ensure that we have enough energy to exercise, but we are not going to feel sick or bloated as we are doing our workout?

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Before workout:

Below are the food types that can be taken to ensure that the body is provided with enough nutrients and energy to complete a workout. Some of these include:

Complex Carbohydrates 

Include foods that contain complex carbohydrates, such as rice, oats, whole-grain pasta, bread, vegetables, and fruits. These food types provide slow releasing energy and will fuel you throughout your workout.

Timing your meals 

Allow enough time to digest your meal before a workout session. Although it is best to leave a two hour gap between eating and exercising, time constraints may not allow this. A light meal an hour before you exercise should not cause problems.

What not to eat

Don’t rely on refuelling with simple sugars, such as pastries, candies, and sweets, as these will give you an artificial sugar ‘high’ without giving you the energy to complete your workout.

Drink adequate water

What should you eat before and after a workout

Water is essential before, during and after a workout. Staying well hydrated will help you exercise harder, for longer; it will help stave off injury and it will allow you to achieve your optimal physical performance.

Water will help your body maintain a normal body temperature, and it will also ward off exercise inhibitors such as cramp. Keep drinking regularly one or two hours before working out so you are hydrated when you begin to exercise.

After workout

Once you have finished exercising you should eat to replace the energy you have just used. Below are some of the best foods to eat after a workout.

Complex carbohydrates and protein

Eat protein after a workout to replenish the muscle that breaks down during resistance. Protein replenishes your body’s essential amino acids, which are necessary for the regeneration and repair of the damaged muscle tissues.

Furthermore, protein helps to build enzymes that allow your body to adjust to endurance sports such as running or biking.

Complex carbohydrates are also needed as they restore the glycogen levels in the body. Try to eat a snack within half an hour after a workout session as this is when the body needs to restore energy to the muscles.

Drink more water 

Don’t forget to rehydrate your body after a workout. Keep drinking water during your cool down and in the hours following your exercise. After a very hard workout, you should consider drinking a combination of juice and water to replace electrolytes and salts that you have lost through sweat.

Written by: Dr Chaitra Shivaramaiah

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