Eat for Exercise’s Sake

What you can do to make sure what you put in your body will give you a boost in the gym.

Every day, you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Or maybe you’ve found the perks of eating more frequent meals. No matter if you’re stuck on a traditional three-meal-a-day routine or have moved into the five- or six-meal plan, you need to eat the right stuff to be prepared for whatever is thrown your way in the middle of your workout.

So what should be on your mind while eating? Exercise. And here are a few eating tips that keep your upcoming workout front and center.

Consider the Amount

Yes, food gives you energy. Unfortunately, eating lots and lots of food doesn’t necessarily give you lots and lots of energy. Quite the opposite. Eating too much can cause you to feel heavy, sluggish, or in need of a bathroom break. On the other side of the eating spectrum, not eating enough will cause you to feel weak and unable to complete your exercise routine.

Neither is acceptable. Instead, you should keep your body fed evenly throughout the day. Just be careful not to eat a small meal less than two hours before exercising. If a hunger pain hits you within two hours of your impending workout, take care of it with a healthy snack. And if you must indulge in a large meal, make sure you have three or four hours before you plan to hit the gym. Otherwise, you may wind up falling asleep on the stair stepper.

Keep It Quality

Just as important as the amount of food you eat is the quality of food you eat. Sure, you may be able to get away with a fast-food burger now and then, but if your diet regularly consists of fatty choices, you’re going to have a hard time motivating yourself to get to the gym and work out once there.

To give your body the exercise advantage it deserves, eat well all the time. Start with a healthy breakfast with whole grains, fruit, and low-fat milk. For your other meals, avoid high-calorie, fatty foods. And when snacking before a workout, go with a banana, a fruit smoothie (use yogurt instead of ice cream or frozen yogurt), and granola bars. If you’ve got an intense workout planned, you may want to go for an energy bar.

Finish Strong

Now that you’ve eaten to help your workout go well, you should set your eyes on preparing for your next routine. A great way to do that is through your diet. After you finish working out, eat foods with protein and carbohydrates. Don’t feel hungry right away? Drink a sports drink to replenish what your body lost during the routine.

Once you feel the first hint of hunger, toss some cheese on top of a few crackers, grab a handful of nuts, whip up a peanut butter and banana sandwich, or sit down for lunch. Just make sure what you eat is healthy and will help your body recover after your workout. This way, you’ll feel great after working out, which will provide increased incentive to eat right and get back in the gym tomorrow.

Don’t Dehydrate!

In the midst of eating for exercise, don’t neglect one of your body’s most basic needs: water. Since more than half of your body is made up of water, your need for H2O cannot be overstated.

So before you walk into the gym, while you’re working out, and after you’ve cooled down and moved on with your day, you should be drinking enough water to keep your body well hydrated. Losing more sweat than you can replace with water? A sports drink may be just what you need. Just don’t drink them when you’re sedentary, as they often contain extra sugar and calories that can be a detriment to your good health.