Ten Top Foods For Before and After Exercise
When it comes to exercise, our bodies must perform like well-oiled machines. It is therefore essential to fuel them correctly with food both before and after a workout, or anything more strenuous than simply walking the dog.
Timing and balance of diet are equally as important both before and after exercise. Balancing carbohydrates and protein are the main factors to consider. Carbohydrates provide the energy required for exercise, while protein is important for maintaining and repairing muscle strength afterwards. But there are also other things to think about. If you want to lose weight through exercise, for instance, the fat content of a meal is key. High fat foods must be avoided, as must any large blow-out meals prior to setting off for the gym. High calorie or high fat foods should also be dodged prior to undertaking moderate exercise – you don’t want to eat more than you can burn off.
Here are five top foods for a pre workout meal and five to enjoy afterwards, so you can really get the most out of your workout.
Five Foods to Set You Up For Exercise
It is important for you to remember that meals with a relatively low-glycemic index are best before a workout. Also, try eating at least three hours before exercise, and subsequently, a small healthy snack an hour before embarking on that brisk walk or bike ride. You are merely trying to fuel your body before burning off unnecessary calories and fat. Foods with “slow-release” carbohydrates are also better for you, as these do burn off fat more easily.
Whole Grain Cereal or Oatmeal
With some fruit, ideally a sliced banana, this provides a perfect mix of protein, carbohydrates and is low in fibre. The key to this food is that the carbohydrates are slow release and the focus of the blood supply is on the muscles and not the stomach. Foods that focus on the stomach can cause stomach cramps or that annoying stitch.
Egg White Omelette
The white of the egg, called the albumen, in this provides a good dose of protein. Mixed with rainbow vegetables you will get the antioxidants required to fight off free radicals that occur during exercise and enhance your immune system.
Muscle wastage, called sarcopenia, can occur as you age, so you need to keep the building blocks for your muscles in top condition. These building blocks are the amino acids found in protein, which is prevalent in Greek yoghurt.
A lean grilled chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread is full of protein and low in fat and carbohydrates. This is an ideal lunch if you plan to exercise in the afternoon.
This tasty fish is high omega 3 fats, which improve the way your muscles use protein, and can be effective in preventing sarcopenia. A simple 4oz/115g portion of salmon is packed with many health boosting properties. Simply grilled or poached, it is light to eat and an excellent choice of food to enjoy before exercise.
Before we move on to post-exercise foods, it is imperative to mention water and hydration, so always keep yourself well hydrated during exercise.
Five Foods to Help You Recover After Exercise
Muscles need protein for growth and repair, so it is essential you include protein in any post-exercise meals. You also need an element of carbohydrates to replenish the energy stored in the muscles, which is called glycogen.
Banana and Peanut Butter
It may seem like a strange concoction, but this contains adequate protein for muscle strength and important carbohydrate replenishment and will fill you up nicely. You could eat this as it is, or try it as a whole wheat sandwich.
For this try a whole wheat burrito with black beans, avocado and some fresh salsa. As well as giving you a rather tasty and wholesome snack, this will speed up recovery after exercise, maintain healthy lean muscle and maximise your exercise benefits.
As well as a rehydration mechanism, this clever juice also donates antioxidants to dispense with the free radicals produced during exercise. It is anti-inflammatory and will ease sore and aching muscles. You can blend cherries to make your own juice, or use sugar-free tart juice instead.
Baked Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients, including carbohydrates to replenish your storage of glycogen. They also have vitamin B6, C and vitamin D, which is useful in weight loss and potassium. This replaces electrolytes lost during exercise and helps prevent muscle cramps.
Cheese with Apple and Nuts
Cheese is very low in carbohydrates, but higher in protein. Nuts contain protein and healthy fats and are great energy boosters. Combined with a sliced apple you get a good dose of multivitamins with this, all on a small plate.
For more information about foods that go well with exercise, see the NHS Choices webpage, Food and Drinks For Sport.