It’s no secret that physical activity has many positive effects on individual health, and that it should be a part of our daily lives. However, what’s less talked about is the fact that dehydration, hypoglycaemia and fatigue could occur during intense physical activity that lasts over 45 minutes. Are you making the right choices to fuel-up for optimal health and better physical performance?
BEFORE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Muscles require energy to work during physical activity. Carbohydrates are the primary and preferred source of energy for the muscles when exercising at a moderate to an intense pace because they are quickly absorbed by the body.
For individual recommendations that are specific to your health and training routine, speak with your Medisys dietitian.
Eating before engaging in physical activity is important for two reasons:
1) it prevents hunger before and during exercise which can detract from the workout/activity and
2) it contributes to the maintenance of an optimal level of blood glucose while active. Eating a healthy meal before exercising can improve performance.
However, eating a meal that is too heavy (eg. rich in fat, fibre and protein) right before exercising is not recommended as it could lead to gastrointestinal discomfort and suboptimal energy. When it comes to pre-exercise nutrition, opt for a meal that is rich in healthy carbohydrates, low in fat, and easy to digest.
Meal suggestions for early-morning workouts:
1. If you are hitting the gym early, eat a healthy snack the evening before (eg. whole grain toast with almond butter and a piece of whole fruit).
2. If eating a proper meal early in the morning is a challenge, separate your breakfast into two portions and have one half before leaving for your workout and one after the workout is complete.
3. If you don’t have time to eat a meal before your workout - munch on something on your way to the workout (eg. whole fruit, plain yogurt, whole grain bread).
SAMPLE MEAL / SNACK CHOICES PRIOR TO PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
DURING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
• If the activity lasts less than an hour: Generally, proper hydration is sufficient.
• If the activity lasts more than an hour: If you are engaging in exercise that lasts longer than an hour, consuming carbohydrates may help you maintain energy and mental concentration to optimize your performance. The carbohydrates can come from drinks or food sources – such as 2 Tbsp. of dried apricots; 3 dates; 1/2 peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread, a single serving plain yogurt, or one low-sugar all-natural cereal bar (such as a KIND bar). Speak to your registered dietitian to determine your requirements.
You want to start a new training routine? You should first assess your health status.
AFTER PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
• If the activity lasts less than an hour: Water is sufficient.
• If the activity lasts more than an hour: A snack rich in carbohydrates is highly recommended. The snack should be ingested ideally within 30 minutes after exercise, or as soon as possible. This snack helps the body to replenish its glucose reserves, to repair muscles and therefore, to promote a good recovery. Furthermore, the nutritive elements of the snack favour good health and the maintenance of a strong immune system.
SAMPLE POST-WORKOUT MEAL AND SNACK CHOICES
Drink water within the 2 to 3 hours prior to physical activity and continue to hydrate during and after your workout. The colour of your urine is a good indicator of your hydration state; it should be pale to very pale yellow.
Avoid commercial fruit juices or sports drinks that are packed with refined sugar, artificial colours, and additives. Look for healthy, natural alternatives to commercial sports drinks (eg. certain brands of coconut waters or aloe waters provide hydration and a good balance of electrolytes without all the added refined sugar).
Water requirements depend on your sweat rate, the sport or activity you are engaging in, and environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity and altitude. Monitor the change of your body weight during the training and competition to evaluate the quantity of liquids that has been lost in sweat.
NOTE: The tips and advice provided in this article are to be taken as general advice.
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