Any well-rounded exercise program deserves an equally well-rounded nutritional plan. I would approach your dietary needs from the general sports nutrition standards which includes ensuring that your pre-exercise meal(s) contain easily digestible carbohydrates along with small amounts of lean protein. The carbohydrates will serve to “top-off” muscle energy storage while the protein will help repair muscle tissue. It’s also advised that any pre-exercise meal should be lower in fat and fiber as these nutrients tend to take longer to leave the stomach which could lead to cramping. A few examples may include:
§ Turkey & Low-Fat Cheese Sandwich + Fruit
§ Low-Fat Cottage Cheese + Peanut Butter & Crackers + Fruit
§ Tuna Salad Sandwich with Light Mayo + Yogurt & Fruit
When it comes to pre-exercise meals, when you eat can be just as important as what you eat. Your body can take full advantage of the nutrients consumed in about 3-4 hours. Therefore it’s best to consider scheduling your pre-exercise meals to work into this timeframe if at all possible. Eating too close to workout times may cause cramping and nausea which could inadvertently impact performance. Early morning exercisers don’t typically have 3-4 hours of time available. So if you fall into this group, consider simply consuming water or a sports drink 30-60 minutes prior to exercise or a smaller abbreviated form of breakfast with the remaining consumed post-workout.
Nutritional needs following your workout are simple. If your routine remains under 60 minutes with low-moderate intensity, it’s likely that you’ll need little more than water. However, as intensity and duration increases, so does your need for replacing carbohydrates and electrolytes lost during your workout. So, it may be best in those instances to aim for sources to replace fluid and electrolytes lost during your routine. A few ideas may include:
§ Sports Drinks
§ Watery Soups
§ Fruits & Vegetables
Overall, you’ll likely want to experiment a bit with the pre-exercise foods to determine your tolerance levels and aim for well-balanced meals throughout the day to help muscle repair and energy recovery.
Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition: Exercise Hydration, Nutrition Fact Sheet; April 2009, http://www.scandpg.org/local/resources/files/2009/SD-USA_Fact_Sheet_Exercise_Hy