Fueling for a workout

Any seasoned athlete knows that proper nutrition is an integral part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Food provides us with the energy we need to be physically active, and it provides us with the building blocks we need to repair our bodies.

What are the best foods to eat the day of a big workout?

As with many things in life, it largely depends on the individual. We all have different bodies, schedules, and preferred forms of physical activity.To better understand the role of food in a successful workout, it is important to understand the major components of food which fuel our bodies. The three major categories of energy-providing macronutrients found in food are carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Carbohydrates and fat are our main sources of energy, and while we can derive energy from protein, for the most part protein is broken down into amino acids, which are then used as building blocks to rebuild the proteins in our own body.

Distinguish simple and complex carbohydrates.

With regard to carbohydrates, it is important to distinguish simple and complex carbohydrates. All carbohydrates are made out of sugars. Simple carbohydrates consists of one sugar or two sugar molecules linked together, while complex carbohydrates consist of three or more sugars linked together. Complex carbohydrates are gradually cleaved into simple sugars, and because of their chain-like structure, they take much longer to break down than simple carbohydrates. For this reason, complex carbohydrates don’t give us the sugar high and crash that comes with eating sugary foods, but a more sustained and steady supply of energy.

Timing is everything

When deciding what to eat the day of a workout, an important concept to think about is digestibility. The faster a food is broken down, the faster it can be absorbed and utilized by our bodies. If you are eating several hours before your workout, it is good to eat something which digests more slowly. This will make it so by the time your workout rolls around, you aren’t already hungry again. On the contrary, if you are eating a snack shortly before your workout, it is generally better to eat foods which are more quickly digested and absorbed. This will not only provide you with more energy for your workout, but you will also be relieved of the agony of trying to workout on a full stomach.

What about proteins?

In general, foods high in protein and fat are digested more slowly than foods high in carbohydrates. For carbohydrates, the simpler the carbohydrate, the faster it will be absorbed. So if you are eating several hours before a workout, it is good to eat a well rounded meal containing fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates. The closer you get to a workout, the better it is to focus on carbohydrate-rich foods. Fruit is always a popular choice for a pre-workout snack. Not only does it provide you with a good source of carbohydrates, it also supplies electrolytes and water which will help you hydrate for your workout.

Different workouts, different diets

Different types of workouts also have their unique constraints when it comes to diet. Running for example, is extremely uncomfortable with a belly full of food. Light weight lifting on the other hand, is much less significantly impacted by a full stomach.

Overall, the most important thing is to listen to your body and find out what works best for you. Experiment with what works for you, develop a routine, and stick with it. And regardless of what you eat, don’t forget the most important nutrient of all: drink your water!

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