What to eat before, during and after exercise | The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


I am running a lot. That gives me a lot of time to think about things. Lately, my mind has been gravitating towards “food as fuel” or more specifically, “I wonder what I should be eating for breakfast to make sure my morning run is optimal? Do I even need to eat breakfast?”. During and after my run is over, I know that I should be replenishing my body with more fuel and liquids but once again, I am at a loss at to what would be best for me. Water or a sports drink? Eat right away or wait? What should I eat after a run? Is it even possible to lose weight when I am running so much?

I turned to my friend google for some help on this matter and I found a very informative article about these very things. WebMD brought me the most information on “What to eat before, during and after exercise”. My favorite parts of the article follow in their original form……..

What is the best thing to eat before exercising for energy and endurance?

Fueling exercise requires quality carbohydrates, lean protein, heart-healthy fats, and fluids. Your muscles rely on carbohydrate foods like breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables for a quick energy source. Protein is needed to build and maintain muscles and for healthy blood cells. Blood cells deliver nutrients and oxygen to working muscles.

Foods provide the gas to the body’s engine, and fluids provide the water to your body’s radiator. Without these crucial fuels and fluids, your body will have a hard time performing at its best.

Is there an ideal pre-sport or exercise meal?

The ideal pre-sport meal has five characteristics:

1. Low fat

2. Moderate in carbohydrates and protein

3. Low fiber

4. Contains fluids

5. Made up of familiar, well-tolerated foods.

Is it better to stay hydrated with sports drinks or plain water?

Recreational athletes can drink water for hydration. But if you’re exercising for more than 60 minutes in hot, humid conditions, sports drinks provide not only fluid, but carbohydrate and sodium.

Why is it so important to drink plenty of liquids during exercise?

Not only does being well hydrated improve your performance, it can save your life. Water acts as your body’s cooling system; without sufficient water during exercise your body temperature can reach dangerously high levels.

The best way to stay hydrated is to drink plenty of fluids with meals and drink about two cups (16 ounces) of water two hours before exercise. Monitor your hydration status through two simple measures:

Weigh yourself before and after exercise and replace lost weight with 2 cups of fluids for each pound lost.

Check the color of your urine. When you’re hydrated, your urine will be a light straw color.

Is it bad to exercise on an empty stomach, especially in the morning?

It really depends on the type of exercise — a brisk walk or light jog on an empty stomach is fine; just drink a glass of water before heading out the door. For more intense exercise, eat some easy-to-digest carbs (a packet of instant grits, a slice of toast, half a plain bagel, a banana, or cup of fruit cocktail washed down with a glass of water) to help provide fuel. After sleeping, the overnight fast can deplete your liver stores of carbohydrate, so a quick boost of carbs before longer exercise is recommended.

Can eating a high-protein diet help bulk up muscles?

The only way to bulk up muscles is to hit the gym and perform progressive resistance exercises. Protein can help provide the raw material to build muscle, but the protein has to be pulled into muscles through exercise. Aim to eat a small amount of protein (10-20 grams, or about 2-3 ounces of lean meat, 2 cups of low-fat milk, or a scoop of most protein powders) after each bout of weight training to give your muscles the needed building blocks.

Why do you need to eat protein or drink protein shakes after exercising?

Muscles need protein for recovery and growth, and the best time to deliver protein appears to be right after exercise. Providing high-quality protein after exercise gives your muscles the fuel and the building blocks needed for both repair and for growth.

Protein shakes and powders carry a certain allure, but your muscles don’t care if the protein comes from a hard-boiled egg, glass of chocolate milk or whey protein shake. Whatever you choose, more isn’t better — only 10 to 20 grams of protein is needed to provide amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to muscles.

What are gels and what role do they play in fitness performance?

Gels are good for endurance athletes but are not needed by the recreational athlete. Gels are concentrated forms of carbohydrate and can help long-distance cyclists and runners get some quick fuel during exercise. Since they are so concentrated, they should be washed down with water to avoid stomach upset.

Are there any benefits to exercising in the morning vs. at night?

The best advice is to just do it. There are no benefits to either time; it’s simply a matter of personal choice. Some people prefer morning exercise and the satisfaction that it is done without worrying that it will be squeezed out by their daily routine. Others prefer to exercise later in the day, when muscles are warmed up, and it helps revive them for the evening. The only caution is not to exercise close to bedtime, as the increase in body temperature and metabolism may interfere with sleep.

Is carbo loading a useful strategy for long-distance athletes?

Carbo loading, or stocking up on carbohydrates before a sporting event, has gone out of favor with most athletes. Eating adequate carbohydrates during training provides muscles with all the glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrate) that they need.

Athletes who exercise for longer than two hours usually consume some form of carbohydrate during exercise (sports drinks, carbohydrate gels, or energy bars) to provide additional fuel. Carbohydrate loading (also called “muscle glycogen supercompensation”) should only be considered for those performing very hard, continuous exercise that lasts for 90 minutes or more, and should be done under the supervision of a sports dietitian.

What changes should you make to your diet if your goal is to lose fat?

If your goal is to lose weight and target fat, you need to follow the same kind of healthy diet as above, but be sure you get enough calories to fuel your physical activity. Cut back on refined, sugar-rich foods and beverages and high-fat and fried foods, and scale back your portions to gradually lose body fat. A combination of exercise and a calorie-controlled diet will be the most effective way to promote fat loss.

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