Are You Eating The Correct Foods Before Exercise?
Just like a car runs on gas, your body needs fuel to get you from a to b. Would you pour coke into your car before a drive down the coast? No. You would want to fill it with high quality, efficient fuel. Same goes for your ultimate movement vessel, your body.
Carbohydrates are particularly important for athletes as they supply the body with quick, fast energy to be used up for exercise. The carb or “glucose” is stored within the muscles and liver as “glycogen” – a reserve, and is utilised when your body is working doing short and explosive movements such as paddling hard for a wave.
High release carbs are going to give you a very quick energy spike (foods such as lollies, white bread etc) however what goes up, must come down. Ideally we would want to be consuming mainly slower released carbohydrates (oats, brown rice ) that keep our bodies steadily releasing energy for us to use instead of playing havoc with our blood sugar levels.
Fat is used to fuel longer bouts of exercise and endurance activities such as hiking or long distance running. When we do not eat enough fat we run the risk of not being able to absorb certain vitamins and minerals – leading to our bodies not functioning as efficiently as they could. Good types of fats to consume come from foods such as avocado, nuts, seeds and certain oils.
Protein is essential for performance as it allows the body nutrients that it needs to repair muscles which are damaged from everyday wear and tear and especially exercise. Small amounts of protein may be used for energy, however it is not the predominant type of fuel we use for exercise.
Vitamins and minerals though not sources of energy, provide valuable functions within the body. For example if a person is lacking in the vitamin iron they will feel incredibly lethargic and slow – disabling them from reaching their performance potential. Vitamins such as calcium, potassium and sodium are electrolytes. Electrolytes have a large influence of the regulation of water in your body and how your muscles work, meaning we as surfers should be conscious of keeping these within our body.
Hydration is the crux of performance. If your body is not hydrated properly it can not flourish at a functional level – let alone on a performance level!
Figuring out what to eat before exercise can greatly determine our energy and endurance levels for the session. Let’s have a look at what we should be eating to get the best performance results.
1. We should be wanting to eat foods that have both slow release and a quick release carbs in them. This is because the quick release carbs will give us that short and sharp energy to really get going, and the slow ones will, well… keep us going!
2. We should be eating foods that are easy to digest, meaning eating a steak before exercise for example would not be a wise choice.
3. We don’t want to eat too much before exercise. If we are still digesting (even seemingly easy to digest foods) our bodies will be upset, and we will feel slow and lethargic. If you know you are doing a large amount of activity that day, stock up at breakfast and just top yourself up as the day goes by.
4. Eating foods that assist hydration can be beneficial to us. Fruit is a perfect example. Virtually all fruit are at least 80 percent water, and are rich in electrolytes. Electrolytes have the role of sending electrical impulses that react with our heart, muscles and nerves. If you are depleted in electrolytes, have fun trying to perform…Marathon runners have frequently become so low in electrolytes that they pass out, some even dying. Drinking plain water will not allow you to gather electrolytes, they need to be consumed by food or particular beverages such as coconut water.
5. An example of a perfect meal to eat before exercise (give yourself time to digest) is porridge (slow release) with dates (fast release) and berries (electrolytes, fibre, antioxidants.)
And what about after?
Basically after exercise, it is good to consume foods with high levels of protein as this will help the muscles that have just been worn out recover and grow. Replenishing hydration levels is also important after exercise. Even in a wetsuit, you will still be sweating and loosing water. Eating foods which contain really quality protein alongside helpful vitamins and mineral such as lentils or kidney beans is always ideal. Why not cook up a bowl of brown rice, curried lentils and roasted vege’s for that post exercise recovery!
Overall, it is always best to find what suits your body. This can only be done through trial and error, however these tips provided are based on scientific evidence exploring the relationship between food and body performance. Have fun thinking of creative ways to eat before and after exercise, ensuring you get what you need to nourish that body of yours. There are so many delicious food groups out there waiting to be explored by your belly!