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Eating and Exercise

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After a particularly unpleasant experience at a spin class following an ill-advised breakfast beforehand of Egg on Toast, I decided I needed to get more information about whether I should eat before exercise, and if so, what. 

I've never been so hungry

EAT BEFORE EXERCISE

Most of the “Eat before” camp say the following in one way or another:

Fuel your body to provide energy for your workout. They argue that if you fast before you exercise, you are putting your body into starvation mode, when you exercise your body starts burning calories but then when you do eventually eat, your terrified body will store the food in its fat pockets in case it all happens again.  Also once your body has used up all your reserves, it may also reverts to breaking down protein for fuel so you may lose muscle and it may also slow your metabolism over prolonged periods, which can make losing weight more difficult in the long run.

What to Eat:

Pretty much everyone agrees that if you choose to eat before, it needs to be balanced and low in fat and sugar, moderate in protein, high in carbs. Carbs help prevent muscle breakdown and fatigue, while protein helps regulate growth and repair.

These are the most commonly recommended things to eat:

Bananas - rich in carbohydrates and potassium which will help with keeping up with the muscle and nerve functions

Oats – full of fibre which facilitates a steady release of carbohydrates into your bloodstream, and therefore a steady energy supply

Coffee - Dr. Michael Colgan, author of "Optimum Sports Nutrition," says your fat burn can increase by 100 percent if you take in caffeine before exercising. Increasing your fat burn not only helps you lose weight, but also increases the time it takes for your body to reach fatigue from exercise. In addition, caffeine intake can decrease muscular pain associated with exercise.

Smoothies – high in protein, not too bulky so can digest quickly. Fruits and Veg in the smoothie release simple as well as complex carbohydrates so you’ll get energy spread over a longer time.

Wholegrain Bread – full of fibre so those steady release of carbohydrates again. Add some jam for some quick release energy

Greek Yoghurt – doubly the amount of protein of normal yoghurts but half the sugar.

For longer exercise durations (anything over 45mins to an hour) you also need to think about fuelling up during the exercise as well. You need something that contains glucose and electrolytes like sodium and potassium (gels or energy drinks) so you can work harder for longer and your muscles aren’t burnt for fuel. I’m going to do some guinea pig testing on these when I finally get back to doing some longer rides, will report back.

I’m very good at eating so I like any argument that condones more eating. But the Do not Eat camp’s arguments are also very compelling, more on that next time. 

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