By: Jessica Ivy ’15, University Health Center Dietetic Student Volunteer
How many times have you gone to the gym, only to realize you are exhausted halfway through your workout? Your energy is low. You are starving. You realize the last time you ate was four hours ago, so you decide to cut your workout short.
Some people might think eating before a workout is counterintuitive. But, if your body doesn’t have the energy it needs, how is it supposed to make it through a workout?
You would never question filling up your car with gas before a road trip, right? Well, your body is like a car, and it needs fuel to perform optimally.
So, what kind of fuel does your body need?
Before a Workout
- Choose simple carbs. You want something easy to digest that is a quick source of energy. Carbs are a good way to top off your tank and provide the fuel your muscles need for your workout.
- Drink up! If you are thirsty before your workout, your body is already dehydrated. Make sure you sip on water beforehand and bring a water bottle with you. Campus Recreation Services offers convenient water filling stations in its facilities which makes it really easy to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water while you work out.
- Avoid fiber and high fat foods. These items take a long time to digest, so your body will be focused on breaking them down instead of helping your muscles. Fiber can also stimulate unwanted gastrointestinal side effects.
- Start small. You don’t need a big meal sitting in your stomach as you exercise. Try to time your workout in a way that you can eat a snack 30-60 minutes before a workout and a meal after.
- Don’t run on empty. It’s important for your body to have something in its system to fuel your muscles. If you workout in the morning, try eating a granola bar or banana. If a vending machine is your only option, check out this guide for the healthiest choices.
- Options: grab a banana or bowl of cereal at the Union Shop; keep a box of granola bars in your room or backpack and grab one before your workout
After a Workout
- Balancing act. Aim for a snack or meal that contains a mixture of carbohydrates and protein. You need carbohydrates to replenish the glycogen that your body depleted during the workout. Protein aids in muscle recovery.
- Hydrate! Especially if you worked up a sweat or were exercising in the heat, replenishing your fluids is vital. Choose fluids like water and lowfat milk. Sports drinks may be appropriate if your workout is over 60 minutes in duration.
- Don’t break the bank. Typically, protein powder and other supplements will be a heavy drain on your wallet. The same important nutrients are found in things like chocolate milk, and you’ll save time and money.
- Options: stop by the dining hall or STAMP student union for a balanced meal. Check out this map for other dining locations; grab a carton of chocolate milk at Cambridge Convenience Shop or Sneakers Café at the ERC