What to Eat Before, During, and After Exercise
An interview with sports dietitian Christine Rosenbloom.
What are gels and what role do they play in fitness performance?
Gels are good for endurance athletes but are not needed by the recreational athlete. Gels are concentrated forms of carbohydrate and can help long-distance cyclists and runners get some quick fuel during exercise. Since they are so concentrated, they should be washed down with water to avoid stomach upset.
How do you know if you're getting the right amount of calories and nutrients?
To get an accurate assessment of your calorie and nutrient needs, see a registered dietitian or a certified specialist in sports dietetics. For a quick, but less accurate assessment, try www.mypyramid.org to track your energy needs and your exercise [or use WebMD's Food and Fitness Planner].
Are there any benefits to exercising in the morning vs. at night?
The best advice is to just do it. There are no benefits to either time; it's simply a matter of personal choice. Some people prefer morning exercise and the satisfaction that it is done without worrying that it will be squeezed out by their daily routine. Others prefer to exercise later in the day, when muscles are warmed up, and it helps revive them for the evening. The only caution may be not to exercise close to bedtime. Some experts believe that the increase in body temperature and metabolism may interfere with sleep. Exercise is great for sleep, and the National Sleep Foundation's tip for sleep hygiene suggests that in those without a sleep disorder exercise at any time is good for sleep.
Is carbo loading a useful strategy for long-distance athletes?
Carbo loading, or stocking up on carbohydrates before a sporting event, has gone out of favor with most athletes. Eating adequate carbohydrates during training provides muscles with all the glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrate) that they need.
Athletes who exercise for longer than two hours usually consume some form of carbohydrate during exercise (sports drinks, carbohydrate gels, or energy bars) to provide additional fuel. Carbohydrate loading (also called "muscle glycogen supercompensation") should only be considered for those performing very hard, continuous exercise that lasts for 90 minutes or more, and should be done under the supervision of a sports dietitian.
What are good, healthy snacks for kids during sport activities or practice?
When it is your turn to bring the snacks, keep it simple and healthy. Let’s face it; young kids don’t burn a lot of calories in a recreational weekly soccer game, so provide healthy snacks in small quantities. Orange or apple slices; peanut butter sandwiches cut into quarters; string cheese and whole-grain crackers; and trail mix made with whole-grain cereal, nuts, and dried fruit; along with fruit juice, are good choices.