Updated: Jan 22, 2021
The importance of the right nutrition and hydration for exercise…
I don’t know about you, but my body certainly lets me know when I need to eat and it lets me know BIG TIME if I don’t eat when it wants me to – I get cranky and shaky and sometimes get to the point where I just HAVE to have SOMETHING or I’m gonna eat my arm off!
When you’re exercising, it’s even more important to feed your body well – both before and after – to get the most out of your workouts and have your body recover. This is a great article from Penni Lamprey with fantastic tips for keeping you balanced before, during and after exercise…
Do any of the following sound familiar? Feelings of dizziness, heavy headedness, shaking, tremors, fatigue, energy crashes, hunger and craving for sweets shortly after a workout? The good news is, it’s likely these symptoms are alarms triggered by your brain and body as they succumb to a glucose deficiency, and quite loudly, or physically at least, start requesting a meal…you’re suffering the hangery's and your body wants to feast!
To prevent these undesirable repercussions, and to achieve sustained energy levels post workout, attention to your nutritional needs before and after exercise is crucial to ensure you set yourself up for success, plus, no one likes vague crabby company.
To help your body work more effectively your muscles need to be loaded with glycogen (sugar) prior to a workout, and a complex carbohydrate food source provides this. Some protein and fats are necessary too, unlocking the energy for your body to use.
A general guide is to have a meal about 3-4 hours before, or a lighter snack about 1-2 hours prior to exercise.
Suitable snacks could include:
Nut Milk shakes
Wholegrain cereals with milk
Green smoothie with added whole grains (brown rice, oats, quinoa)
Yoghurt and fruit
Fruit loaf with cottage cheese
At workout conclusion, and within 30 minutes, it is imperative that you consume a balanced meal of carbohydrates, protein and fats to assist your body tissue to recover, restore blood sugars and glycogen for the day ahead and the next work out.
This is especially important if the time between training sessions is less than 8 hrs. As a recovery snack I adore baked beans with a slice of wholegrain bread and spinach or a large banana choc-nut smoothie – nearly as much as poached eggs and fresh tomatoes on seedy-grainy hot buttered toast!
Studies have shown strength training can reduce body fat while increasing your energy (food) needs.
Knowing if you have a need for increased portions sizes is also required – be mindful as to how you feel post workout and later in the day. Ask yourself questions such as: ‘how do I feel a few hours later’…’how strong was my workout?’…’could I use extra energy?’…and be open to the idea you may require an additional snack or meal through the day to meet and benefit your energy needs.
I know personally after a great hot-yoga session, I can find myself wanting to eat all day, so being prepared and knowing what blend of carbs, protein and good fats is on the post workout menu can alleviate poor choices later on in the day.
Equally important to nutrition is hydration. Adequate hydration is central to optimum performance, and consideration must be given to the intensity and duration of your exercise, the environment, and your existing hydration levels.
It’s scary to think mild dehydration of even as little as 1–2% can cause fatigue, thirst, and can also alter your perceived exertion. And because thirsty muscle also tires easily, you’ll reduce your work out capacity.
Ideally your hydration should be a continual effort to avoid any signs of dehydration (concentrated urine, thirst, headaches, fatigue or constipation). However, before you pick up your training bag aim to drink approx. 200ml of fluid every 15 minutes, up to 20mins before you start. It takes your stomach about 20 minutes to empty and not have the ‘swishing’ sensation in your tum.
During exercise small sips can be taken, but for a period of 40 minutes or less, this may not be needed if you are properly hydrated prior to training. Avoid commercial sports drinks, they often will replace any kJ’s you have just slogged off! A little apple juice in your water, or coconut water can aid hydration efforts if water isn’t enough.
Healthy, sustainable weight management – be it loss, maintenance, or even weight gain can be achieved with healthy and balanced nutrition – spend a little time navel gazing to create an exercise and menu plan which best suits your needs.
Please be sure to have your doctor to check things out if post workout issues are reoccurring and not improved by eating.