Eating Before, During and After Sports


Welcome back to another informative post. How has it been foodies? I hope nothing less than great. This time we’ll venture a little into sports nutrition. Sports nutrition undergo constant change throughout the years as humans evolve too. There is extensive research for better nutritional guideless for active adults and performing athletes in consuming the right food in terms of energy, nutrients, fluids and many more to maintain hydration and workout optimally.

The American College of Sports Medicine says, “Enough food and fluid should be eaten before, during, and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance, and improve recovery time. Athletes should be well hydrated before exercise and drink enough fluid during and after exercise to balance fluid losses.” 
Be aware that this is not a thorough plan for athletes nor is it a professional advice. This is simply some general knowledge or a little info for those of you who are starting a new goal to exercise more. You’ll be equipped with a little information on when and what to eat in order to get the most out of your exercise routine. Let’s get to it! 

Eating before exercising is important to prevent fatigue and you can last longer and more intensely. Also, it can stop those distracting and irritating hunger pangs that might hit you out of the blue. Ideally, you should eat 1-4 hours before your workout. The meal or snack should be enough to satisfy but not make you feel full during exercise. If you’re planning to eat a large meal, make sure it is a few hours well before your workout. You should include carbohydrate-rich and protein-rich foods in your meal in order to provide fuel for your brain and muscle while feeling satisfied longer. Your food should also be low in fat and fibre because these are digested slowly, and fibre can cause bloating. You don’t want to feel like a balloon during your workout which will definitely affect your routine. 

Don’t forget to drink enough water to be well hydrated but not too much or you’ll get that uncomfortable splish splash splosh feeling in your stomach. A few ideas on what you could eat before working out: 

  • Small bowl of cereal with chopped fruits and yoghurt 
  • Small bowl of pasta with pesto or tomato sauce 
  • Fruit smoothie

During workout 
You only need to eat during long-spanned exercises, when energy is continuously depleted in a long duration. In general, you do need extra fuel during exercise sessions that are less than 60 minutes, and up to 90 minutes if they are low intensity exercises. So, if you see someone in the gym chugging down protein drinks in between reps when they’re only in for 30 minutes, do not make an example of them. It’s quite unnecessary. 
For long exercise sessions, refuelling is needed to maintain blood glucose levels and sustaining intensity of the exercise. You should have small amount of fluids to keep hydrated with water or electrolyte drinks, and if you won’t be eating any solid snacks, have sports drink instead. Snacks should be low in fibre and easy to digest so it won’t interrupt your exercise. When I say snacks, I mean light food, not potato chips okay? Some of these can be eaten in between your long-spanned session: 

  • Banana 
  • Muesli or sports energy bar 
  • Simple sandwiches (jam or peanut butter) 
Photo credit: Skinny Ms

Eating after exercising is essential to replace energy, fluids, salts and carbohydrates that are used up. It is also a chance to stimulate muscle growth. You should have a meal or snack within 30 minutes after your workout session. This will help to speed up muscle repair and refill energy stores in the body. If you eat after 30 minutes or a few hours later, you would not be able to recover properly or achieve optimal result in muscle growth. 
Your post-workout meal should be rich in carbohydrate and protein which are easily digestible. You should also drink enough plain water to rehydrate yourself after sweating buckets. These are a few dishes ideas for your post-workout meal: 

  • Baked potato with grilled tofu and side salad 
  • Wholegrain pita with humus and low-fat mayo 
  • Roasted vegetables on tortilla with low-fat cheese 

If eating a whole meal or solid food after exercising is uncomfortable and you don’t have time to cook up within the time window, try out meal replacement or protein shakes instead.
Sports nutrition is basically eating for goals; enhancing athletic performance and improving exercise recovery. If you want to know more and what can be personalised for you, talk to a sports nutritionist or a registered dietitian. They can help you plan your meals to avoid missing out on important nutrients and to achieve your goals.