Individuals generally workout for weight loss, maintenance or fitness. Exercise burns fewer calories than you think, for instance, you burn only 100 calories for every 1.5 kilometers that you walk or run. But, before going to the gym from work or going out for a morning walk, individuals tend to drink some protein shake or munch on something for energy without realizing that they are overdoing the calorie intake. A normal-sized energy bar contains about 250 calories while a standard-size fruit smoothie (500 ml) contains about 350 to 400 calories. So, what is the purpose of rushing out to exercise when you have already overconsumed calories?
What we need is a balanced intake of calories to fuel your workout such that it does not spoil your effort to burn calories while exercising.
As the Sun Rises
Low-intensity morning workout needs minimal fuel that helps to break your overnight fast without overdoing the calories. For example, workouts such as walking, bike ride or yoga need fuel in the form of water for hydration and a 100-calorie granola bar for sustained energy for workout. Post-workout, eat a healthy breakfast consisting of carbs and proteins. You can have a slice of whole-grain toast, one hard-cooked egg and 100-percent fruit juice or oatmeal with berries and fat-free milk.
When the Sun Sets
If you plan to exercise in the evening, eat your lunch some 3-4 hours before your workout. A well-balanced meal consisting of items such as a colorful veggie salad, grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup helps in fueling you with energy for a late-evening workout, but you can add a little more energy to your body some 15-30 minutes prior your workout session by eating a banana, handful of grapes or pear with a glass of water. It is enough to hydrate your body with water if your workout is not going to last for more than an hour, but if it goes beyond that you can aim for a sports drink. If you exercise beyond 60 minutes in hot climate, it is essential that you drink 90-180 ml of sports drink every 15-20 minutes.
Be sure to drink water after any workout. Planning for a dinner immediately after workout negates the need of any snack after your activity. If in case, your dinner might be delayed, it is better to eat a small snack meanwhile. You can eat a bowl of sprouts with veggies, 180 ml of low-fat Greek yogurt or drink 180-230 ml of fat-free chocolate milk.
Avoid the unhealthy ritual of skipping your breakfast, eating a fragile lunch and exercising directly after office work with minimal fuel in your body. In such cases, you tend to overeat your dinner as you have denied yourself of any food since morning. Also, never reward yourself with fatty foods for a well-done workout session as all your efforts are wiped away in such cases. Rather, it would be great if you reward yourself with a new novel or an excellent pair of gym pants.
Energy is basic for any activity, right from doing chores at work to performing in a sports event. There have been debates and controversies on the foods that can be taken before a workout, even more if any food can be consumed in the first place. Questions such as "Should I consume a sports drink when participating in a long run?” or “Is it safe to eat and drink before and after a workout?” are common ones that linger in each of our minds. The below given answers to some of the most common questions help to segregate fact from fiction.
Are Proteins the only Nutrients for Muscle Growth?
Protein is needed to complete the requirements of a well-balanced diet, but eating too much of this nutrient is not going to make you extremely stronger. The best way to grow muscles is to activate them. Carbs are the best sources to fuel working muscles as they contribute to 50-60% of energy utilized during one to four hours of moderate or hard endurance activity.
Can Gels, Energy Bars or Sports Drink Substitute the Nutrients Available in Real Foods?
Talking about sports, gels and energy bars might be fun, chic and serve the purpose of providing the body with the required energy, but they are not inevitable as real food can furnish our body with the same benefits as these workout fuels. An athlete’s main goals should be to replace lost fluids and provide carbs to keep blood glucose levels under control when involved in activities for more than 60 minutes.
The only exception when these gels, chews or drinks are preferred over real food is when the athlete is subjected to digestive problems while consuming solid food during workout. Consumption of food and fluids must be sketched based on the athlete’s gastrointestinal tract tolerance, duration and intensity of workout.
Does Working Out on an Empty Stomach Provide an Advantageous Edge?
Body needs fuel to run, jump, swim or lift weights. Your early morning workout should not be done on an empty stomach as studies show that eating before exercising improves performance compared to exercising on an empty stomach. Never skip your morning breakfast as this is the meal that is going to refill liver glycogen and steady blood sugar levels. If you are not comfortable to eat solids as the first thing in the morning, you can choose between a fruit smoothie or a liquid meal supplement. Also, remember to hydrate before you exercise.
Exercising Daily Gives me the Benefit of Eating Regardless of Portion Sizes. Doesn’t It?
Exercising daily does not mean that you can eat anything that you wish for ignoring portion sizes and eating guidelines. Don’t go overboard while estimating calories burnt while working out. Calorie intake depends on the event you are involved in. For instance, when you work out more than once in a day for a triathlon or participate in multiple events in a day you need to consume more calories. If you are a normal exerciser involved in physical activity for 60 minutes or less in a day, a well-balanced diet fulfills your requirement.
Can I Drink Chocolate Milk Daily?
The milk, carbohydrate and protein content might make it sound as the perfect recovery aid, but remember that it is not the only aid. Unsweetened yogurt or whole-wheat turkey sandwich (half) can serve the purpose as well.