Fuelling your body with the correct nutrients prior to exercise is vital – it will give you the energy and strength you need to perform at your best
Which foods will really power you up – and which ones will make you struggle? We teamed up with health and well-being experts at Vivotion.com to produce a six-step guide to the food types to include in a pre-exercise meal, as well as tips regarding proper hydration and digestion.
To make clear, exercising on an empty stomach is a no-no as you’ll lack the energy you need from carbohydrates to achieve your peak performance. Failing to eat can make you dizzy, light-headed, nauseated or lethargic, and it can also make you more likely to injure yourself.
Here’s our six-point checklist to follow:
1. Carbs – When we eat them, they break down into glucose, enter our muscle cells and give us fuel to exercise at our maximum capacity. If you’re strapped for glucose during your workout you’ll feel weak and tired. Carbs = energy.
2. Protein – Strength training exercises, like weight-lifting, create small tears in our muscle fibres. When you rest your body repairs those micro-tears, building up your muscles bigger and stronger than they were before—and it needs protein to do so. That doesn’t mean you want to devour a huge burger before a workout. Go for sources of protein that are easily digestible, and don’t eat too much, so you don’t get an upset stomach halfway through.
3. Acetylcholine and high dopamine – Every state of mind and emotion is mirrored by a chemical. During most training sessions focus and drive are the name of the game, which means you want high acetylcholine and dopamine levels. The best foods to achieve this are red meat and nuts.
4. Fats – The amount of fat you choose to consume before you exercise is dependent on when you’re eating and your type of workout. Fat takes longer to digest than carbs and protein, so provides a longer stream of energy. If you’re eating a pre-workout meal at least two hours before, you’ll likely want to include some source of fat. That’s also the case if you’ll be exercising at a moderate-to-low intensity for an extended period of time (walking, hiking, biking for one to three hours).
5. Digestion – Whatever you eat before a workout, you need to give your body enough time to digest it. The ideal time is between 30 minutes to three hours before your workout. That way you’re not still digesting when you hit the gym floor, but you haven’t gone and used up all those helpful calories yet.
6. Hydration – Obviously, your body should be hydrated all of the time, but it’s particularly important to make sure you’re hydrated before and during exercise. A good place to start is drinking about two cups of water two or three hours before exercise and one cup of water 10 to 20 minutes before working out. The goal here is to minimise dehydration – which can cause low energy and muscle cramps – without drinking too much.