Kittle: Diet influences value of regular exercise

Eating a pre-exercise meal or snack has two purposes—to prevent hunger, help supply fuel to the muscles.

I’m often asked: “What should I be eating before and after exercise?”

Research has shown that what you eat and drink can have an effect on your exercise performance.

The main source of fuel used by the body during exercise is carbohydrates, which are stored in the muscle as glycogen, a form of sugar.

When exercising, glycogen reserves can be used up, especially if an activity last longer than 90 minutes.

Because the amount of glycogen the body can store is limited, it’s important to replace glycogen stores by consuming a diet that is high in carbohydrates for energy.

Eating a pre-exercise meal or snack has two purposes—to prevent hunger before and during exercise; and to help supply fuel to the muscles during exercise.

A pre-exercise snack or meal should include:

• a balance of carbohydrates such as pasta, fruits and vegetables, rice, legumes potatoes or bagels

• little or no fat foods

• a low-moderate amount of protein including lean meats, fish, peanut or almond butter

• water.

Below are some examples of a meal plans one to two hours before exercise:


Cold or hot cereal with fruit or fruit juice and low-fat or non-fat milk.

French toast or pancakes with maple or fruit syrup.

Breakfast burrito (scrambled eggs, salsa, low-fat cheese in a flour tortilla) and fruit juice.

Toast with jam or honey and low-fat yogurt.

Bagel or English muffin with jelly and/or peanut butter, a banana, and fruit juice.

Lunch or dinner

Deli sandwich on whole wheat bread with turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, extra veggies, and mustard, and baked chips.

Bean burrito (light on the cheese and skip the sour cream); two soft tacos with grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, and extra salsa; and Mexican rice.

Two small hamburgers with fruit or fruit juice and a side salad.

Grilled chicken sandwich, frozen low-fat yogurt, and baked potato with low-fat sour cream or salsa. Pasta or cheese ravioli with red sauce, French bread, steamed vegetables, pudding, and fresh or canned fruit.

A slice of thick-crust veggie pizza, low-fat gelato and fresh or canned fruit.

Baked or grilled lean beef, chicken, turkey, or fish; steamed rice; dinner roll; cooked green beans; low-fat frozen yogurt; fruit juice.

The most important part of anyone’s diet is water—you need to keep hydrated to replace body water lost while exercising and cool the body.

The guidelines for drinking water one to two hours before an activity or exercise is 10 to 14 ounces of cool water.

During exercise, you should aim to drink three to four ounces every 15 minutes.

And after exercise you should drink at least 16 ounces to rehydrate.

Water is best to replace fluids lost by the body, however, sports drinks and diluted fruit juice is good for fluid replacement and energy for longer or all day events.

To be sure you are hydrated, check your urine colour. If it is the colour of lemonade you are drinking enough. If it is the colour of apple juice it means you are dehydrated.

Eating for recovery should begin within 30 minutes of finishing a workout.

The guidelines for eating after exercise are much the same as pre-exercise and should include foods which are higher in complex carbohydrates and lower and fat such as pretzels, cereals, grains, fruits and vegetables, bagel, banana, muffins, yogurt, eggs, cottage cheese, nuts and seeds.

Avoid fried foods, pizza, mashed potatoes and butter, biscuits, hot dogs, burgers, cheese, cookies and cakes, butter and margarine, sugary cereal and pop. Eating “good carbs” will restore muscle fuel reserves, and some protein to help in the repair and building of muscle tissue.

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