We know of the increasing amount of literature tackling nutrition before and after workout. That’s because each individual who exercises normally must eat the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat before exercise for energy and after exercise for recovery. In fact, maintenance of muscle mass is critical for health, function and athletic performance. Nutrition fuels exercise by “helping maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximizing exercise performance, and improving recovery time,” says The American College of Sports Medicine.
Proper nutrition while exercising
A lot has been said about pre and post workout nutrition. How about nutrition during exercise? Eating and drinking during exercise is unnecessary for workouts that last an hour or less, especially if your pre and post exercise nutrition are good. But for high intensity exercises that last over 2 hours, you have to stay hydrated and consume immediate fuel to pump up your performance, maintain your muscles and improve your recovery.
- Eating a small amount of protein during exercise helps hamper muscle breakdown leading to better recovery. This is especially necessary for athletes on prolonged intense training or those with multiple daily training sessions and for people who want to gain big muscle mass.
- Eating a small amount of carbohydrates during exercise immediately fuels any workout by pumping up performance and expediting recovery. This is especially necessary for endurance athletes on prolonged runs, for people who want to gain more muscle or those who want to power up their endurance and performance.
- Fats are difficult to digest which makes eating even a small amount of fat during exercise a no-no. You don’t want your digestive tract getting all the oxygen while working out, do you?
Proper nutrition for building a workout regimen
Does nutrition affect a person’s workout regimen? Workout nutrition varies from person to person and is determined by the duration and type of workout. Depending on your workout goals, your nutrition during exercise must be appropriately adjusted.
- Workout regimen under 2 hours. If you’re exercising for less than 2 hours, eating while exercising is not necessary. But if you’re exercising under the heat and perspiring a lot, competing or doing multiple trainings less than 8 hours apart, sports drinks’ electrolytes may be beneficial to ramp up hydration, and recovery. If you’re trying to gain more muscles, ingestion of a combination of amino acids and carbohydrates produced the largest response of muscle protein balance making it reach positive levels that resistance exercise alone cannot do. The timing of protein ingestion is nothing to fret about however, as Les Mills nutritional medicine specialist & Chief Creative Officer, Dr. Jackie Mills says: “Eating protein boosts amino acid levels in your blood for several hours. So don’t stress too much about that 15 minute window. What really matters is how much protein you’re eating overall. So if you have a routine going, you might as well stick with it”.
- Workout regimen over 2 hours. For prolonged workouts more than two hours, you should consume 15 grams of protein and 30-45 grams carbohydrates every hour in general to ensure you have enough protein, carbohydrates and electrolytes to keep you fueled. Electrolyte-laden sports drinks are especially beneficial to prevent depleting the body’s sodium level that may cause the heart muscle to erratically contract.
Now that we have established the need and the importance of proper nutrition during exercise, it’s important that we know more about the types of food we should be supplementing our exercise regimen with. For most of us, the best workout nutrition should contain a healthy combination of protein, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that provide fuel, build muscles, fast track recovery and inhibit inflammation.