Diet and exercise: 5 tips to maximize your exercises


Knowing when and what to eat can make a difference in your exercise. Understand the connection between diet and exercise.

Eating and exercising go hand in hand. When and what you eat can be important in knowing how you feel when you exercise, whether it is informal exercise or training for a competition. Consider these tips for eating and exercising.

1. Eat a healthy breakfast

A healthy breakfast

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If you exercise in the morning, get up early enough to finish breakfast at least an hour before your workout. You must be well fed before you start training. Studies suggest that ingesting carbohydrates in food or drink before exercising can improve training performance and may allow you to train longer or at a higher intensity. If you don’t eat, you may feel lazy or dizzy when exercising.

If you plan to exercise within an hour after breakfast, eat a light breakfast or drink something like a sports drink. Focus on carbohydrates for maximum energy.

Good breakfast options include the following:

  • Cereals or whole grain breads
  • Low fat milk
  • Juice
  • A banana
  • Yoghurt
  • A pancake

And remember, if you normally have coffee in the morning, a cup before your workout is probably fine. You should also know that every time you try a food or drink for the first time before training, you run the risk of an upset stomach.

2. Control your portion size

Be careful not to overdo it when it comes to how much you eat before exercising. General guidelines suggest:

  • Big meals. Eat them at least three to four hours before exercising.
  • Small meals or snacks. Eat them one to three hours before exercising.

Eating too much before exercising can make you feel lazy. Eating too little may not give you the energy you need to keep feeling strong during your workout.

3. Eat good snacks

Fruit smoothie

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Most people can eat small snacks just before and during exercise. The key is how you feel. Do what works best for you. Snacks eaten shortly before exercising probably won’t give you extra energy if your workout lasts less than 60 minutes, but they can prevent distracting hunger pangs. If your workout is longer than 60 minutes, you can benefit from including a carbohydrate-rich food or drink during your workout. Good snack options include:

  • An energy bar
  • A banana, apple, or other fresh fruit
  • Yogurt
  • A fruit smoothie
  • A whole grain bagel or crackers
  • A low-fat granola bar
  • A peanut butter sandwich
  • Sports drink or diluted juice

A healthy snack is especially important if you plan to exercise several hours after a meal.

4. Eat after exercising

Yogurt and fruit

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Yogurt and fruits

Fill your body with fuel for daily performance

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To help your muscles recover and replace glycogen stores, eat a meal that contains carbohydrates and protein within two hours of your exercise session, if possible. Here are some good post-workout food options:

  • Yogurt and fruit
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Low-fat chocolate milk and pretzels
  • Post-workout recovery shake
  • Turkey on whole wheat bread with vegetables

5. Drink

Drinking water

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Don’t forget to drink fluids. You need adequate fluids before, during, and after exercise to help prevent dehydration.

To stay well hydrated for exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends:

  • Drink approximately 2 to 3 cups (473 to 710 milliliters) of water in the two to three hours before your workout.
  • Drink about 1/2 to 1 cup (118 to 237 milliliters) of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. Adjust amounts related to body size and weather.
  • Drink approximately 2 to 3 cups (473 to 710 milliliters) of water after your workout for every pound (0.5 kilograms) of weight you lose during your workout.

Water is generally the best way to replace lost fluids. But if you are exercising for more than 60 minutes, use a sports drink. Sports drinks can help maintain your body’s electrolyte balance and give you a little more energy because they contain carbohydrates.

Let experience be your guide

Keep in mind that the duration and intensity of your activity will determine how often and what you should eat and drink. For example, you will need more energy from food to run a marathon than to walk a few miles. And try not to include any new products in your diet before a long-term sporting event. It is better to have previous experience to see how your system responds to food.

When it comes to eating and exercising, everyone is different. Therefore, pay attention to how you feel during your training and your overall performance. Let your experience guide you in knowing which pre-exercise and post-exercise eating habits are best for you. Consider keeping a journal to monitor how your body reacts to meals and snacks so that you can adjust your diet for optimal performance.

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