Does your current fitness regime
include lifting weights in a gym, training for an upcoming marathon, brisk
walking, kickboxing, yoga or Pilates classes?
All of these forms of exercise require smart food choices to maximise
your workouts and keep your body strong.
What you eat is very important to
how your body performs physically. If
you don’t feed your body with the right foods, it is unlikely you will get the
results you desire, whether those results are larger muscles, more endurance,
or a trimmer waist line.
Active bodies need carbohydrates
from whole grains, fruits, legumes and dairy products to build and maintain glycogen
stores in the muscles. Glycogen is the form of energy used to fuel all types of
To support the build and repair of
muscles, protein is important, especially after heavy exercise. And finally, drinking plenty of fluids before,
during, and after exercise is crucial to keeping muscles hydrated and working optimally.
If you are thirsty, you have
already reached a mild dehydrated state, and this alone can impair physical
performance and cause early fatigue.
Fuelling before exercise
When it comes to fuelling exercise,
timing is everything.
Allow enough time for food to
digest when you eat before a workout or fitness class. This will ensure that
the energy is readily available to the muscles at the time of exercise.
A large meal, like chicken, rice
and vegetables, may take three or four hours to digest while a smaller meal of
a sandwich may only require two or three hours.
Snacks, for example, an energy bar or smoothie, would only require one
to two hours for digestion.
A good pre-workout snack for cardio
or aerobic exercise may be a 6oz low-fat yogurt or a banana. A good pre-workout
snack for strength training may be half a turkey sandwich or a hard-boiled egg
and an apple.
Fuelling after exercise
Your main objective after a workout
is to replenish glycogen stores, rehydrate, and repair muscle tissue. Again, timing is important.
Recovery foods should be eaten
within 30 to 60 minutes of completing your workout because this is when
glycogen and protein-building enzymes are most active.
After 30 to 60 minutes of cardio,
you can eat a carbohydrate-rich snack like a whole-grain cereal bar or a
blender smoothie made with low-fat/soy milk and fresh fruit.
After 45 to 60 minutes of strength
training, you can eat a carbohydrate-rich snack that contains 10 to 20 grams of
protein to repair muscle such as a protein shake with a banana or 1.5 ounces of
cheese with wholegrain crackers.
Hill is a registered nutritionist.