They say our body is a temple and exercise is our prayer. It is a well-known fact that the kind of lifestyle our generation leads is a far cry from how our elders used to live. Be it a kid or an adult, our sedentary lifestyle is to blame. We are more indulgent and choosy with our food habits and we eat not only to fill our stomachs but to satiate our cravings. Add to it, the splendour of eateries that are opening up every day-everywhere.
It is, therefore, very crucial to incorporate a strict workout regime to keep oneself fit. But your workout alone may not help you meet your goals. Your diet has an equally important role to play here. It is essential to fuel up before a workout. Dr. Anju Sood, a Bangalore-based Nutritionist explains, "If you do not eat anything before your workout, your body will find it difficult to lose weight. Whatever you eat, be it a banana or toast, acts as a stimulator. It improves your efficiency and mobilizes the fat."
Our body needs energy to initiate and at some point push ourselves through the exercises. Working out on an empty stomach will only lower your blood sugar levels thereby making you dizzy and unable to meet your fitness targets.
According to Weight Management Expert, Dr. Gargi Sharma, "Eating before your workout will provide the body enough fuel to carry out strenuous exercises. Another benefit is that the process of digestion causes the body temperature to increase leading to greater use of nutrients while exercising. Working out on an empty stomach can cause unwanted protein loss. Eating adequate food and drinking fluids before is very important as it helps to maintain the blood glucose levels. It enhances the performance and improves recovery time. One should be very well hydrated before and after the workout to balance out fluid losses." Now that you know how important it is to eat before you hit the gym, let us walk you through the essentials.
1. Timing is of the essence: "One should keep at least a 2-3 hour gap between meals and the workout. Skipping meals or eating too much before the workout can interfere with fitness goals."-advises Dr. Gargi. The closer you are to your workout the simpler should be your meal. Keep 3 hours to digest a large meal, 2 hours for a small meal and one hour for a snack. This is primarily so that your digestive system can break down the proteins, fibres and fat and release energy. The best pre-workout foods have a high glycemic index (a scale that measures carbohydrate levels that are quickly digested).
2. The kind of workout you perform: "Eating before a workout depends on what kind of workout one is doing and at what time of the day it is being done. If you are planning for a high intensity workout, then you should eat properly before as exercising on an empty stomach can undermine your performance, "says Dr. Gargi. If your agenda is to work on the fat then bananas or low fat yogurt will do the needful. If your target is to gain muscle then focus on complex carbohydrates.
3. Keep it light: A pre-workout snack should be low in fat, should digest quickly with a moderate amount of protein. Dr. Gargi Sharma suggests the following:
- Bananas contain simple and easily digestible carbs. They are rich in potassium which allows better muscle contraction during lifting weights and muscle cell growth after.
- Nuts and seeds are great sources of energy and make for perfect heart healthy snacks. Prefer cashews that are rich in Omega-3, walnuts rich in fats and sunflower seeds that keep your muscles healthy.
- Yogurt with fruits along with some nuts can provide you sufficient protein.
- Eggs and toast makes for a wholesome pre-workout snack. Bread supplies energy in the form of carbs while the protein rich eggs aid in muscle building and repair.
- You can have a quick salad with cottage cheese, fruits, nuts or seeds for energy.
- Oats and milk is the best pre-workout food. It keeps your cravings in place since it releases energy slowly.
4. Men and women have different diets: "Both males and females have different calorie and nutrient requirements. Their diets are planned according to their body weight and kind of workout they are doing. In case of females there is higher requirement of calcium and iron as they are more prone to osteoporosis and anemia," says Dr. Gargi Sharma.
5. To drink or not to drink? "Drinking liquids like water or juices before the workout ensures that your body does not dehydrate. But excessive consumption should be avoided and only take liquids to replenish yourself and keep those dreadful cramps at bay," recommends Dr. Sood.
6. Foods to avoid: Your fitness regime could be sabotaged by indulging in certain food items. So stay away from fiber elements like flaxseeds or high sodium foods like roasted nuts. These can cause bloating and gas. "Avoid sugar, candies, fatty and fried foods like red meats, samosas and pakoras as these foods makes your system very sluggish," suggests Dr. Gargi.
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