The fuel you put into your body right before, during and soon after exercise can make all the difference to how beneficial your workout really is. Fuel up smart and you will see how a good workout can become a great one.
Before a workout
If you're one of those who think that going for a cardiovascular workout early in the morning on an empty stomach helps burn more fat, abandon the thought now. "You must have something to eat and drink before you exercise to ensure that you are well-hydrated and have sufficient blood glucose to fuel your muscles," says Heath Matthews, physiotherapist with Elite Athlete Performance.
The pre-workout meal should be high in carbohydrates and low in protein, fat and fibre. This will ensure that the food is digested and absorbed sooner.
"You can have either a baked potato, apple or banana, orange, chikoo or sweet lime before you head out for your workout in the morning. Make sure you eat this at least 15-20 minutes before the workout," says Leena Mogre, director Leena Mogre's Fitness.
Eating before exercise is especially important if you train in the mornings. "Your body uses up a lot of its energy reserves during the night to repair damaged muscle tissue. If you don't replace this, you run the risk of running out of energy during your exercise session and not achieving your fitness goals," says Matthews.
During a workout
It's estimated that a 45-minute workout burns 500 calories, which means the body burns a lot of energy and fluid in that period and needs to be replenished adequately, says Dr Sunita Dube, nutritionist, Aryan Hospitals.
Keeping yourself well hydrated during an exercise session is very necessary. "Drink at least 500 ml of water during your session to avoid too much fluid loss," says Dube. Alternatively, you can also sip on a carbohydrate-rich energy drink during training, which will have the dual benefit of replacing lost fluids and maintaining blood glucose levels.
After a workout
What you need most within 45 minutes of an exercise session, according to Matthews, is a balanced meal that will replace lost fluids and carbohydrate levels as well as provide protein for the body to rebuild damaged muscle fibres.
"This is because you need to replace the lost blood glucose in your system. If you don't do this you may start feeling tired or sleepy later in the day, and not be alert enough," he adds.
"A fruit like banana along with a direct source of protein egg whites, sprouts, pulses or paneer is a great way of replacing protein in the body," says Mogre.
Getting the times right
Eating at the correct time is as important as what you eat.
If you train in the afternoon, you should ensure that you eat a good meal 2-3 hours before your workout. As for after a workout, a good meal within 45 minutes after training is a must.
"For those who feel a little peckish before bedtime, a glass of milk with a few biscuits may help fill the gap and help you sleep well," advises Matthews.
Pre-workout (morning): Fruit or cereal or biscuits. Post-workout (morning): Mix of protein and carbohydrates like sprouts or paneer or khakra. Pre-workout (evening): Fruit or salad or roti-sabji. Post-workout (evening): Soya chunks or paneer or sprouts or dal cheelas.
Pre-workout (morning): Cereal, sandwich or fruit. Post-workout (morning): 2 eggs or 3 egg whites + cereal or chicken. Pre-workout (evening): Egg roll or cereal bar or fruit. Post-workout (evening): Grilled chicken + a vegetable or 3-6 egg whites + vegetable salad or fruit.