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Preparing by consuming food before hitting the gym is recommended. (Shutterstock/File)
Preparing by consuming food before hitting the gym is recommended. However, choosing the wrong meal may make your workout heavier and sabotage the progress you’re aiming for. The last thing you want during a workout is a sudden stomachache, or your body giving up too soon due to weariness.
“Carelessly consuming food and drinks before a workout session, or even working out on an empty stomach, can damage your body system and cause cramps,” said Jim White, spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics, as reported by mensfitness.com.
For an optimal gym session, avoid these seven foods and drinks.
Flaxseed is rich in fiber, which is of course good for the body. But too much fiber can make your stomach gassy and bloated, which could hamper your workout routine. Stella Metsovas, a clinical nutrition and diet expert, recommended that people not consume high fiber foods two hours prior to and post a workout. Other than flaxseed, avoid fiber supplements, bran, vegetable salads and high-fiber baked goods. It is better to pick something containing carbohydrates and proteins.
Don’t be fooled by protein bars sold in supermarkets. A lot of protein bars contain more than 200 calories and very little protein — they are basically same as a bar of chocolate. According to Rania Bayney, as reported by shape.com, if your protein bar contains less than 10 grams of protein, it could lower your blood sugar level faster and make you feel tired faster as well. Pay attention to the nutrition table on the packaging. Choose a protein bar containing no more than 200 kcal with a 1:1 sugar to protein ratio.
Having a high carb and protein meal does not equal filling your stomach with burgers and fries at the nearest fast food restaurant. Junk food contains high fats and needs at least four hours to be fully digested.
When you digest food, the heart focuses on pumping blood to your stomach to help the process. The volume of blood flow to the muscles decreases, while the muscles need a lot of blood intake when doing heavy-duty activities like working out. Moreover, the high sodium levels in junk food can also interrupt the balance of bodily fluids needed during a workout.
Avoiding fast food is the best move, but healthy snacks that are high in fats such as cheese, avocadoes and almonds can also make you sluggish. Why? As quoted by USNews.com, the process of turning fat into energy is considered inefficient compared to carbs or protein. The complex process of digesting fats in the body can cause cramps and discomfort in the stomach. Choose rice, pasta, potatoes or meat that are processed as simply as possible. As a guide for eating prior to working out, use a carb to protein ratio of 4:1 for maximum energy.
(Read also: 10 essential foods for muscle building)
Even low-fat milk, claimed to be a diet food, can hamper the body during workouts. Protein is a primary source of energy and can help your muscles to recover, but high protein foods and beverages do not contain enough carbs, making them drain your energy faster. Like fats, protein travels slowly to the blood, making you feel tired and shaky even though you have just eaten a big meal.
According to White, any food that contains simple carbs and sugar in high amounts, including some “healthy” smoothies, only provides temporary energy, not the continuous energy needed for your workout. For the digestive system to work optimally, you need the help of good bacteria living in your bowel. By consuming too many artificial sweets, the growth of good bacteria is threatened, causing a disturbance in the absorption of nutrients.
High-carb, sugary snacks will increase your blood sugar level and could even make you faint in the middle of a workout session. If you are planning to do an intense workout, it is best to avoid orange juice, isotonic drinks, soda and energy drinks.
Caffeine can provide extra energy before working out, but it can also ruin your sleep pattern. A lack of sleep means not enough energy for physical exercise. Choose an espresso or black tea that are friendlier to the body compared to soda or an energy drink. If you prefer smoothies, make one at home with added fresh fruits and protein powder.
Boiled eggs are a good source of pure protein, but do not have enough carbs for balanced energy. Moreover, protein and eggs stay in the stomach for a long time before being digested, which will make you feel heavier during your workout. Raw eggs are also not good to consume prior to working out. Raw egg contains salmonella bacteria that can cause stomachache and diarrhea. It’s best to replace your egg menu with a cup of plain Greek yogurt or cheese mixed with fruit salad.
Spicy foods are good for the diet due to the fact that they can burn calories faster, but this wholesome value will not be effective if you eat spicy foods before going to the gym. Spicy foods can cause stomach pain and a burned throat that can obstruct your workout session.
Bananas are a good snack to consume before doing physical exercise, but make sure you choose yellow, ripe ones. Choose a banana without any green spots that indicate it is not fully ripe. The best way to know if a banana is ripe is the existence of brownish spots on the peel. At this level of ripeness, sugar contained in the banana will make it easier for the body to digest. (kes)
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.