Consuming a healthy and balanced diet, and exercising regularly are among the foundations for living a long and healthy life, as well as contributing factors to overall wellbeing. The body needs energy to carry out daily activities or during sports and physical activity. What are the ideal foods to consume before and after a workout to ensure the greatest benefits?
First of all, it is essential to eat properly before doing any physical activity. Exercising in a fasted state can cause hypoglycemia and hunger spikes, it increases the risk of fainting, and may even result in a muscle catabolism process that may put toxins in the bloodstream. Food taken in before playing sports or any other physical activity, even walking to work, is important because it is the body’s source of energy during these activities.
In general, nutritionists recommend a simple and light pre-workout meal (to avoid complex and prolonged digestion) with an adequate amount of nutrients, to ensure the right energy and nutritional intake. If you practice sports in the morning, for example, it’s recommended to have a quick snack before physical activity, and then have a rich and complete breakfast afterwards. Lunch should be consumed at least 3 hours prior to exercising to make sure it doesn’t affect the digestive process, and should be based on carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, such as whole grains and vegetables, and with minimal protein and fat to enhance both strength and endurance. If you exercise in the evening, have a snack (banana, walnuts, granola bar) about 2 hours before working out.
First of all, never skip a meal after physical activity. Nutritionists recommend consuming 30 grams of protein within 1-2 hours after each workout. Protein is essential for muscle recovery, and helps regenerate muscle fibers after physical activity. In fact, athletes should always consume healthy amounts of protein from various sources, such as fish, legumes, whole grains, and dairy products. Fats are also important for those who exercise, especially healthy fats like vegetable oil, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds. After exercising, the body gets rid of toxins and must replenish energy reserves, as well as restore damaged muscle tissue.
In the 15-30 minutes post-workout, the muscles are able to quickly absorb nutrients to synthesize new tissue and repair the damage caused by physical activity. This time frame is called the “anabolic window” (which gradually decreases within 2 hours), and some nutritionists recommend eating a protein snack immediately after a workout to regenerate the muscles. This is especially true for those who play sports at an intermediate to professional level. For those who simply want to lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight, it is still recommended to take advantage of the increased basal metabolic rate and eat 1 or 2 hours after exercising. In any case, it is good to consult a nutritionist to evaluate your situation and choose an appropriate diet.
Another fundamental issue is hydration: replenishing fluids lost during physical activity, especially on hot and sunny days. The risk we face is dehydration which, in addition to decreasing athletic performance, can be harmful to the body. It’s advised to drink water before, during, and after training, to replenish the liquids lost during the workout. If necessary, it can be useful to consume water rich in mineral salts and/or saline supplements in moderation.
By Fondazione Valter Longo Onlus editorial staff
Fondazione Valter Longo Onlus aims to make scientific dissemination by raising awareness among the scientific and non-scientific community of a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition through the production of explanatory scientific articles, textual, infographics and multimedia content, and the dissemination of clinical activities scientific, informative and educational aspects of the Foundation and its team of professionals. Dietary pathways, scientific discoveries, clinical studies, treatments and technologies, national and international awareness events, prevention initiatives as well as Longevity recipes are just some of the topics addressed in articles and in-depth interviews published daily and written in collaboration with the Foundation’s specialists. Also active on social networks, Fondazione Valter Longo Onlus editorial staff also offers a monthly newsletter sent to all members, to stay up to date on the most interesting news related to the world of Health, Nutrition and Longevity.
Romina Inés Cervigni
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