It is "absolutely essential" to eat and drink two to four hours before workouts to fuel and hydrate the body, says UC Davis sports nutrition expert Liz Applegate. Eating before exercise is particularly important when taking part in activities that require hand-eye coordination, like basketball and fencing.
Applegate recorded a 13-minute video for the UC Cooperative Extension website Feeling Fine Online that outlines what and when athletes should eat for optimum health and performance.
The pre-workout meal, she advises, should be high in carbohydrates, low in fat and contain a moderate amount of protein. Applegate's examples:
- 1 pita pocket with 3 tablespoons of fruit spread
- 1 cup of oatmeal with 4 oz. of soy or lowfat milk
- 6 oz. of vegetable juice with 1/2 cup apricots
- High carbohydrate energy bar with no more than 10 grams of protein
"After exercise is where I see lots of mistakes," Applegate says.
She recommends athletes eat a specific amount of carbohydrates within the first 30 minutes post exercise. (To calculate the amount of post-exercise carbs for you, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.7. That gives the number of carbs in grams.) A small amount of protein and antioxidants will also boost recovery. Applegate's post-exercise examples are:
- Smoothie with fruit and yogurt, protein powder or soy milk
- Bean burrito with 6 oz. of fruit juice
- Tuna sandwich with 8 oz. of cranberry juice
- 2 mozzarella sticks, a whole grain English muffin and an orange
Recovery also requires rehydration. Applegate recommends drinking 16 oz. of fluid for each pound of sweat lost.