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Sports and physical activities at mealtimes: Should you eat beforehand, or not?

13 September, 2018

Classed under: Well living

Working out at or around mealtimes is pretty common these days for many of us: whether it’s early in the morning, at lunch or after work, with our busy schedules eating and physical activities often coincide! And, because you need energy to work out, the question becomes whether or not to eat beforehand…

The short answer: if you haven’t eaten for three hours or more, best to have a snack before and a meal afterwards. The long answer depends on the duration and intensity of your workout. In any case, here are some broad principles to follow to help keep you at your best, followed by some snack ideas suitable for the type of exercise you will be doing. 


Rule No. 1: Make sure your basic nutritional needs are satisfied by eating healthily and regularly. 


Skipping a meal is more harmful than you think when it comes to our daily activities, even more so when they include sports. To keep your energy levels up at all times, it’s wise to spread out your eating throughout the day. Tip: Divide your meal into two or three portions that you can consume more easily and quickly. 

Also, you don’t have to eat more than you normally do or take any supplements if your workout is short (an hour or less) and of moderate intensity. A healthy varied diet will generally provide your body with all the nutrition it needs.  


Rule No. 2: Spread out your protein consumption throughout the day.


When you take part in sports, it’s also very important to spread out your protein intake. In other words, eat some protein at every meal. Why is that? Because proteins slow down the absorption of carbohydrates (the main source of energy for your brain and muscles) and that helps you maintain an even supply of energy. They also help build and regenerate our tissues, including our muscles, tendons and ligaments. So if you didn’t consume any proteins before you work out, make sure you have some after!

The principal sources of protein are meat, fish, eggs, legumes, dairy products and nuts. 


Rule No. 3: Keep hydrated.


Don’t wait until you have a dry mouth and eyes before drinking water… drink regularly especially between meals and workouts to help avoid upsetting your digestion.


So, what to eat and when?


As mentioned earlier, if your last meal was more than a few hours prior, it’s best to have a light snack before any physical activity.  Here are some suggestions and ideas according to the duration and intensity of your workout. 

Although you may enjoy eating before physical activity, keep in mind that the less time you have before a workout, the lighter and more easily digestible your snack should be to help with digestion and absorption. 

Idea: have dessert before your workout and your main meal afterwards!

Happy training!