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Nutrition for pre and post exercise

By Cherice Bronte-Tinkew
Registered Dietitian

What you eat before and after can affect your overall performance when exercising or participating in a sport. For this article, I shall concentrate on the foods and drinks appropriate for one to two hours before an exercise and after an exercise.

Before performing an exercise such as running, aerobics or a high intensity workout it is best to avoid high fibre and high fat foods. Examples of high fat foods include fried foods like donuts or fried chicken and examples of high fibre foods are salads or multigrain breads with seeds before a workout. Foods such as these take longer to digest and can make your stomach upset before and during exercise.

It is recommended to have a food or drink which provides a small amount of energy from simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are quicker at releasing energy. Therefore, this energy can improve your ability to perform better.

Examples include a fruit smoothie without seeds, fresh fruit like a banana or orange or 100 per cent fruit juice or jam and toast bread. If your exercise is longer than 60 minutes, water which contains electrolytes like a sports drink is recommended.

A sports drink should contain electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, to replace the ones lost through sweat and small amounts of simple carbohydrates from sugar. Ensure you hydrate throughout the day, too.

After performing an exercise, it is important to fuel your body to recover and repair your muscles. Give yourself at least half an hour to cool down and stretch then proceed to eat a balanced meal. If you need to replenish immediately, rehydrate with the similar items suggested before an exercise like water and fruit or even a sports drink.

Once you are cooled down and your heart rate is back to normal, you can consume a balanced meal. It should include a source of protein which helps to fuel your muscles. It can be as simple as a tuna sandwich or cheese paste sandwich. Another idea would be a smoothie or punch with fruit, low fat milk, peanut butter, and oats.

Avoid trying new foods or drinks on the same day as your sport event or race. Always practise before in training to find out what works best. Especially in hot conditions, one may sweat and lose energy faster, so it is important to start off well hydrated and rehydrate during exercise when necessary.

You can easily observe this during training if you are losing endurance or strength at certain times.

Eating and drinking the right nutrition can only make you better going forward.