Dietary advice to follow before, after and during physical training sessions

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During exercise, our body needs extra energy. But how much more? Well, the answer depends on the type of activity, intensity, duration and frequency of training. Dr. Kiran Rukadikar, bariatric physician and obesity consultant, celebrity nutritionist and founder of the Diet Queen app, says, “Almost all professional athletes, regardless of their sport, train for at least 6-8 hours a day. It’s huge in terms of energy expenditure, loss of water and electrolytes, and wear and tear. Fueling up by eating the right foods and fluids, in the right amounts, at the right times is important when exercising, even if it’s just for an hour.

When it comes to your training, you can create your own schedule based on your training and other activities, but remember: better fuel, better performance. “The best and most adequate foods and fluids should be consumed before, during and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize physical performance and improve recovery time” , adds Dr. Kiran.

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Before exercise

“Not refueling before exercising is not good for you because you will not have enough energy to maximize your workout. Also, the risks of losing protein and muscle mass are very high if you don’t eat right before training,” Dr. Kiran shares.

Solution: Ideally, refuel two hours before exercising in the following way.

  • To drink a lot of water.
  • Eat healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains (wheat, rice, jowar, bajra), whole wheat toast, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, whole-grain pasta or noodles, brown rice, fruits and vegetables. You can add low-fat or skimmed milk to each of these preparations.
  • Don’t eat fatty, high-protein meals because these foods are digested more slowly in your stomach and take away oxygen and blood that provides energy to your muscles.
  • Always keep a banana for instant energy. Just before activity, say 5-10 minutes before exercising, eat the banana. Easily digestible carbs give you instant energy and won’t make you feel sluggish.
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Mid-exercise

Explaining the reason for refueling during training, Dr. Kiran says: “Our muscle and liver glycogen stores are very low. You need to provide instant energy during the actual workout. There is also a huge loss of fluid which can cause dehydration.

Solution: Whether you’re a professional athlete who trains for several hours or have a light to moderate routine, keep your body hydrated with frequent sips of electrolyte-infused water. “You don’t have to eat during a workout of an hour or less. But for longer, high-intensity vigorous workouts, eating every half hour is recommended. Carbohydrates such as raisins, bananas, or nutrition bars are the best options,” suggests Dr. Kiran.

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After exercise

“You need to recharge all the lost energy and increase your strength and muscle mass after exercise,” says Dr. Kiran.

The solution:

  • Fill up on fluids. Drink water, of course, but plain water mixed with natural juices like lemon or orange will also provide carbs. Even coconut water is a good option once in a while.
  • During exercise, you use up a lot of carbohydrates, the main fuel for your muscles. Within half an hour of your exercise, eat appropriate foods containing carbohydrates and protein. Your muscles can store carbs and protein for energy and to help with recovery.
  • Eat protein-rich foods like legumes, dairy products, and dried fruits to help repair and build muscle.
  • If you are not overweight, you can eat fat in moderation. Switch to healthy fats and eat with carbohydrates and protein.

Note that everyone is different and a lot depends on the type of workout you do. So do what’s best for you and care about what you eat, because it’s as important as what you do in training!

Read more: Exercise 101: Training for busy professionals made easy

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