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The Best Foods for Fitness

Por Leslie Rodríguez, RD, LD* -

Food is the fuel that you need to do all of your daily activities. Do you go to the gym, run marathons, or do any type of exercise? If so, you must eat right before, during, and after your workout.

What and when you eat depends on the physical activity you do. We suggest that you combine different types of food and vary your serving sizes and meal times.
If you work out, what should you eat?

Before your workout

You should eat 1 to 6 hours before doing exercise or before competing in a sports event. Keep in mind that the earlier you eat, the more time your stomach has to digest food. If you eat something light, you'll need less time to digest it (1 to 2 hours). If you eat a heavy meal, you'll need about 3 to 6 hours.
If you exercise in the morning, eat lots of carbohydrates the night before. Also eat a light breakfast in the morning, 1 or 2 hours before working out. This light breakfast will help you relieve any hunger pangs and restore the level of glycogen in the liver. A piece of toast with peanut butter and a banana will do.

For the best performance

You should eat foods like rice, potatoes, pasta and whole wheat bread before exercising. They provide energy and digest much quicker than proteins and fats.
Food high in protein or fat stays in the stomach longer. It can cause nausea or indigestion. Also, avoid foods that contain lots of fiber before your workout. Some foods that may not be the best to eat right before exercise because they may cause gas in the digestive tract are fruit and raw vegetables with seeds and nuts, cabbage, onion, dry beans, and cauliflower.
Try different types of foods to find out which ones are better for your body. Some athletes enjoy milk and cereal and fruit juice before competing.
Others prefer an energy bar and two glasses of water. Try different things to find the perfect food for you.
You should also drink fluids before you exercise. Two hours before competing, drink 2 glasses (16 ounces) of water or fluids that contain carbohydrates and electrolytes, such as Gatorade or PowerAde. Drink 2 more glasses about 15 minutes before you exercise

During exercise

Your physical needs will depend on the type, strength requirements, and length of your activity. It's important to drink enough liquids while you exercise.
Drink half a glass of liquid every 15 to 20 minutes. Water usually adjusts to your needs. If you are sweating a lot and the weather is very hot and humid, you need to drink something with electrolytes.
These drinks will give you energy and help replace what you lose with sweat. If you lift weights for over an hour you might also benefit from some of these drinks.
Carbohydrates keep your blood sugar levels normal and maintain your energy so that you can keep going. If you want to eat something, we suggest small pieces of oranges, bananas, crackers, or an apple or energy bar. Don’t get too full or you’ll want to take a nap!

After you're done

When you finish working out, begin replacing the glycogen your body has lost. Your muscles need carbohydrates to produce glycogen. You need to eat around half a gram of carbohydrates per each pound you weigh.
If you weigh 175 pounds, you have to take in between 80 and 90 grams of carbohydrates. It’s easier than it sounds. For example:

  • A flour tortilla has about 15 grams of carbohydrates.
  • A half a cup of cooked rice has around 25 grams.
  • A bagel has 30 to 40 grams of carbohydrates.

Liquids are also very important after you finish working out. When you work out you instantly lose weight through sweat. You need to replace it to avoid dehydration.
Weigh yourself before and after you exercise. The difference is actually the amount of liquid lost during exercise.
Drink 2 glasses of liquid per lost pound. Keep drinking fluids all day long until you return to your normal weight. You can drink water, fruit juice, sport beverages, and skim milk or eat watery foods such as soup or watermelon.
A common complaint among athletes is the loss of appetite after exercising. Try drinking sports drinks instead of water. These drinks have carbohydrates and electrolytes. They can be a temporary substitute for foods high in carbohydrates, which also have vitamins and minerals.
If you follow this advice, you'll have already begun to prepare your body for the next time you exercise.
*Specialist in sports nutrition and physical activity of MyDiet™


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