In order to maintain your optimal weight, the calories you consume should equal the calories you burn. We lose weight by reducing the overall number of calories we consume and increasing the calories we burn through exercise and other daily activities. From a mathematical standpoint, it doesn’t matter when you consume calories or when you burn them. To keep your energy level high, however, it’s important to consider the timing of your calorie intake in relation to when you exercise.
Before Your Workout
If you eat too much just before a workout, you can feel sluggish and not be able to exercise comfortably. However, if you don’t eat frequently enough between workouts, your blood sugar can drop and cause tiredness and light-headedness. In addition to quantity, the types of food you eat before and after a workout make a difference. Foods full of protein and complex carbohydrates provide more energy for longer periods than simple sugars do.
Before a hard workout, eat a meal that will help you sustain energy throughout the exercise. After you exercise, your body needs to refuel itself. Be sure to eat the best quality foods to sustain your energy level.
Foods high in fiber can take a long time to digest. Normally, this is a good thing. Fiber provides energy to keep you active throughout the day and is an important part of your regular diet. Avoid fiber directly before and after a workout however, since it can cause bloating or discomfort that will make exercising difficult. High-fiber foods also take too long to deliver a shot of energy-replenishing nutrients immediately after a workout.
Focus instead on foods that deliver carbohydrates and protein, and be sure to drink plenty of water. By eating small, nutrient-packed snacks before and after your workout, you will keep your metabolism steady and enjoy the benefits of exercise without feeling an energy crash.
Foods to Avoid During Exercise
Sugary snacks, such as fruit juice with added sugar, soda, chocolate bars, and other sweets, are loaded not only with sugar but also with empty calories. Even some so-called energy bars are little more than repackaged candy bars. When you eat these foods, the sugar metabolizes too quickly in your system and causes your energy level to crash. You’ll feel hungry shortly afterwards, and you may feel shaky and weak during your workout.
After Your Workout
Vegetables, such as carrots and celery, make a great between-meal snack, but to fuel up after a workout you should aim for a higher-calorie choice. Remember that your body has shed a lot of nutrients and needs to replenish that energy to keep your metabolism high. If you skip eating after a workout, or eat low-calorie foods, your metabolism might fall into starvation mode and negate all your hard work.
Try to stick with low fat foods, especially after a workout. After exercise, your body craves protein to rebuild muscles and carbohydrates to raise energy. Because of the way fat is stored in your body, it does not contribute to replenishing nutrients lost during a workout.
Avoid Salt, Seek Potassium
To be healthy, you must maintain a correct balance of salt and potassium in your diet. Most foods, especially processed foods, are loaded with sodium as a preservative and flavor enhancer. Even though you lose some salt through perspiration when working out, you probably won’t lose enough to make a positive difference. Instead, you should focus on consuming more potassium to compensate for a saltier-than-necessary diet. Eating too much salt can cause water retention, dehydration, and heart disease.