Q&A: Exercise Nutrition

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Q: I have been trying to figure out what I should be eating pre and post workout, and there’s a ton of differing information to sift through out there. I do a good mix of cardio and strength training throughout the week. What’s your recommendation on foods to eat before and after a workout?

A: Misinformation abounds when it comes to nutrition and exercise. Tons of powders and supplements exist as well as diets. What you truly need pre and post work out is actually fairly simple.

One overarching principle is to individualize your routine. Our bodies are all different, so you can’t necessarily follow the same practices as your friends. You know how long before your workout you need to eat. You know what foods upset your stomach. You know how much you sweat.

Here are some general guidelines you can adapt to your specific needs.

Pre-workout or event nutrition:

-Eat a small meal or snack that is high in carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fat. This mix of nutrients will be absorbed and digested faster, preventing an upset stomach and cramping.

-Avoid high fiber foods, which are digested more slowly and will sit in your stomach longer. These include raw fruits and vegetables with lots of seeds or tough skins, beans, and whole grains.

-Avoid any foods that give you gas, such as beans, broccoli, and onions.

-Drink plenty of fluids. You can start with two cups or more about two hours before, and then drink one to cups more within half an hour of exercising.

Post-workout or event nutrition:

-Drink plenty of fluids. Replacing losses should be your first priority. For every pound lost during exercise, drink three cups of water. Continue to drink fluids the rest of the day.

-Eat a carbohydrate rich meal or snack within a few hours. Aim for up to half a gram of carbohydrate per pound of body weight. Sooner is better for muscle recovery. When doing strength training, include some high-quality protein. A glass of chocolate milk, milk and cereal, or a turkey sandwich are some suggestions.

-If you are doing strenuous exercise for more than 90 minutes, eat a carbohydrate rich meal twice – within 30 minutes of finishing the exercise and about two hours later.

I hope that helps. Good luck in your exercising and thanks for the question!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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