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5 Mistakes When Fueling for Your Workouts

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For any exercise program to be successful, proper nutrition is also necessary. Many people though are not informed on good eating practices to support their exercise routines. As a result, this leaves room for error when it comes to fitness nutrition. One area in particular where fitness enthusiasts get it wrong is pre-workout nutrition. What you eat before a workout influences performance. It is therefore important to make sure that you are eating right to make the most out of your fitness training. With that in mind, don’t make these 5 mistakes when fueling for your workouts.

1) Poor Meal Timing

Exercising just after having a meal is a common pre-workout nutrition mistake that a lot of people unknowingly make. It is important to give food enough time for digestion before working out. This ensures that the nutrients burned to produce energy and fuel your workouts will be readily available when needed. The time your body requires for digestion depends on the quantity and type of food you consume. Generally, a large meal can take 3-4 hours to digest while light, energy packed snacks like smoothies or whole fruits can take as little as 30 minutes.

2) Eating the Wrong Type of Food

When fueling for workouts, you must choose the right type of healthy foods. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body. Once digested, these macro-nutrients are stored in the liver in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is then converted to glucose before being delivered to muscles for conversion into energy. Therefore, the biggest portion of any pre-workout meal comprises of carbohydrates.

Processed junk foods that have high sugar content mostly contain simple carbohydrates that metabolize quickly. Such foods should be avoided since they only cause a fast spike in blood sugar, thus making you use up all your primary energy reserves and crash shortly after beginning exercise. Instead opt for fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Such foods will supply the body with complex carbohydrates, which take longer to digest and hence provide a slow release of glucose to help you exercise for longer.

While carbohydrates make the bulk of a good pre-workout meal, you should also eat adequate amounts of protein to prevent muscle catabolism during exercise. Healthy poly-saturated fats found in plants, seeds, nuts and fish play an important role in low intensity endurance exercises like light jogging or cycling sessions that last for over an hour. In such cases, healthy fats eaten 24 hours before exercise will help fuel the body once all glycogen stores have been depleted.

3) Overeating

You may be tempted to eat a lot before heading out to exercise. While it may seem like a good idea to have a full tank before an intense workout session, exercising on a full stomach can cause nausea, cramps and lethargy.

How much to eat before exercising depends on a number of factors such as body size, fitness level, workout duration and meal timing. For instance, if you are a morning person, food eaten during dinner will have replenished glycogen stores by the time you wake up. In effect, a light snack or drink may be enough to fuel your early morning workouts.

Regardless of your activity, avoid overeating before workouts. Instead, consume sensible food portions and give the body time to digest.

4) Not Eating Before Workouts

To avoid stomach discomfort, some people choose not to eat prior exercise sessions. However, skipping your meal before fitness training is not a good idea. Exercising without eating anything will likely make you feel light-headed, weak and sluggish because the body will be lacking the fuel it needs to sustain physical activity during exercise.

5) Not Drinking Enough Fluids

Don’t make the mistake of not drinking enough fluids before exercise. In fact, it is important to ensure that you are properly hydrated not just before but also during and after workouts. This reduces the risk of dehydration, heatstroke, and heat exhaustion. Keep in mind that the risk of dehydration is higher when exercising in heat and high humidity.

Consuming the wrong food before you exercise can cause lethargy, cramps, total exhaustion, among other performance crushing problems. Pre-workout nutrition mistakes will set you up for failure even before setting foot in the gym, running track or fitness class. Therefore, make sure to avoid the mistakes discussed above when fueling for your workouts.

Are You Eating Too Much After Workouts?

You often feel hungrier after your workout than you did before you started exercising. This makes sense, because you are burning more calories. When you were sedentary and sitting before, as opposed to sweating, exercising and moving regularly, you probably burned, on average, somewhere between 1,800 and 2,300 cal each day. You did this simply by sitting in your office chair, walking to your car, reclining on your sofa while watching reality TV and just breathing in and out, with little physical activity.

Those average calorie counts expended each day are typical for the modern adult man or woman.

Now you have started to become active. That’s a great thing. Exercise combined with smart nutrition is an unbeatable way to get healthier from head to toe, mentally and physically. There is a problem though. When people start working out and exercising, they become “health fanatics” a lot of the time. Again, this is a good thing. You are putting aside your sedentary lifestyle to improve your quality of life. Congratulations on that.

Unfortunately, too many beginning exercise fanatics decide they will drastically limit their calorie intake at the same time. This puts your body in starvation mode, and can actually cause you to retain fat rather than burn it. Aside from limiting your results, it means you are hungry all the time. Especially after you workout, where you could have expended 300, 500 or 700 cal, your mind is going to be screaming for nutrition, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and calories.

Even if you are not a beginner, you might be eating too much after you workout.

If your exercise leaves you so hungry you could eat a horse, you are not getting enough pre-exercise nutrition and healthy carbohydrates. You may also be making the “I run for beer” excuse or believing a single exercise session will offset a biggie-sized, fast food combo nightmare virtually free of nutrition, and packed full of addictive food-like chemicals, tons of calories and unhealthy carbohydrates.

Checking out the Science

A lot of people eat too much after working out. This is simply the truth. You may not even think you are overeating. However, science shows that for every 10 cal you burn, you have a biological compensation for 3 or 4 cal. This is referring to the time right after your exercise. You are going to eat another couple of times during the day at least, so you will eventually give your body the calories it needs to function properly, accounting for the fat-burning weight loss, muscle building or other physical benefits you are looking for.

Thanks to inaccurate fitness trackers and a natural human tendency to believe your fitness efforts are more successful than actually are, you may think you have burned a lot more calories and fat than you actually did. Psychiatrists call this reward psychology. It happens with veterans, but is usually the mindset of beginners starting exercise for the first time, or returning to fitness.

The mindset is this.

I have just worked out strenuously for 60 minutes. If I reward myself with some type of tasty treat which may not be that healthy, that is a good thing. I am rewarding positive behavior, exercising. I am getting a taste of something I really love, even though it is probably not too good for me. All of my exercise will help offset that unhealthy reward, and then some.

The problem is the misconception of how much your exercise has impacted your body. In one important study, weight loss subjects were asked to report their own meal consumption and exercise efforts. Even with individuals who were not prone to overeating, the average subject believed he or she ate 47% less than they actually did. Those test subjects also claimed to be working out approximately 51% more than they did.

The only way to guarantee you are not eating too much after a workout is to keep a journal. Log every minute of your exercise efforts, and every single crumb that goes into your mouth. If your fitness efforts are not getting you where you want to be, and more importantly, if they are heading in the wrong direction, it may be because you are over-eating post-workout.

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