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Sports Nutrition Tips

When you exercise hard, your muscles burn glucose for energy. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Complex carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, rice, pasta, vegetables and fruits, digest into glucose. They’re the best fuels for your muscles; you don’t need to eat sugar to obtain glucose.

Eating sweets and sugary foods for quick energy before exercise can hinder your performance. Your body produces insulin to carry the sugar from your blood to the muscles. Exercise, like insulin, enhances the transport of sugar into your muscles. The combined effect of insulin and exercise may cause your blood sugar to drop too low. You’ll become hypoglycemic and feel lightheaded, shaky and uncoordinated.

The best foods to eat before exercise are high in carbohydrates and low in fat; they’re easiest to digest. Eating a small meal two to three hours before exercise, gives you time to digest the food. You won’t feel hungry and the meal shouldn’t interfere with your performance. Good choices include:

  • fruit;
  • juice;
  • cereal with lowfat milk;
  • bread;
  • crackers;
  • broth-type soup;
  • vegetables; and
  • yogurt.

Small servings of chicken, turkey eggs and lowfat cheese are also acceptable. Avoid high fat foods meats and foods. They take longer to digest, so they’ll remain in your stomach and be of no benefit.

After strenuous exercise, you should again eat high carbohydrate foods to quickly replace the depleted muscle sugar (glycogen), along with a little protein to help build the muscle. A turkey sandwich has both protein and carbohydrates.

Preventing dehydration is important for maintaining high performance. You should drink water before you exercise as well as during. It will aid performance but not cause cramps. To prevent dehydration in hot weather, drink one to two cups of water every 5-10 minutes before you exercise; and drink at least one cup every 20 minutes during exercise.

Drink even if you don’t feel thirsty. Your thirst mechanism inaccurately indicates the amount of fluid you may need in very hot weather.