Eating and drinking while exercising

If you practice an endurance sport, hunger will strike at some point. You also lose a lot of fluid and you prefer to replenish it as quickly as possible. On the other hand, it is not always practical to take drinks and/or food with you when exercising. What is better: eating and drinking before and/or afterwards, or while practicing your endurance sport?

Exercising without eating and drinking

If you walk for half an hour, you won’t immediately become dehydrated if you drink something before and after. Not all efforts require that you drink or eat something during exercise. If you want to know whether you can exercise without any problems without taking food/drink with you, look at the following factors:

How much do you sweat?

If you sweat a lot or excessively during exercise, it can be useful to replenish your fluid levels and sometimes also your salt levels. If you do not do this, it is sufficient to drink and/or eat just before and/or just after exercising.

How long do you exercise?

If you exercise for less than an hour at a time, you can only drink some water occasionally to quench thirst. From an hour of exercise, and especially if you exercise for more than two hours consecutively, it can be smart to replenish all your body stores: salt, carbohydrates and fluid.

Eating and drinking before and after exercise

Even if you do not eat or drink during exercise, it is important to get enough before and afterward to ensure your body performs optimally.

Eating just before exercising

It is best not to eat a whole meal just before exercising. A light snack, especially one with mainly good carbohydrates, works better. Drinking a healthy smoothie an hour before exercising would be a smart idea. Do you want to eat extensively? Do this 3 or 4 hours before you exercise.

If you eat too close to exercise, you can experience stomach problems, intestinal problems and stitches in your side. It can negatively affect your performance.

Eat/drink after exercise

After exercising you need to get your fluid levels back up. If you have not already done this during exercise, be sure to drink plenty of water. If you exercise in the evening, have your dinner after exercising and not before.

Eating and drinking while exercising

Do you practice an endurance sport, such as running, cycling or skating/skating? If you exercise for more than an hour, you lose quite a bit of fluid. Your body may also become starved and you may experience muscle cramps. You can prevent this by drinking something beforehand and eating something small, and you can also eat and drink during exercise.

Suitable drink: water

Before and after exercise, water is excellent to replenish your fluid deficiency. Also go to the toilet beforehand. Drink a maximum of one glass of water before exercise (up to a quarter liter).

Not suitable for drinking: fruit juice and alcohol

Fruit juice is not suitable for drinking while exercising. The absorption of the energy from the drink takes far too long for this. Alcohol is also not good for you, even the evening before you run a race, for example. It can negatively affect your performance, even if you only drink one or two drinks. According to some, salty liquorice would help with salt absorption (and replenish your salt deficiency), but unfortunately this works differently. The salt in licorice is not sodium chloride (as in table salt), but ammonium chloride, or sal ammoniac. In addition, many types of licorice contain a lot of sugar.

Suitable food: good grains, fruits, grape sugar

Make oatmeal cookies in advance with fruit, such as blueberries. These give you a good energy boost and also provide energy in the slightly longer term. Dextrose can also help you with exercise. It gives you a quick energy boost. As for fruit: bananas in particular are rich in carbohydrates and other good substances that are quickly absorbed by your body. Dates and figs also provide good energy.

Not suitable to eat: unhealthy fats

If you eat too heavy during exercise, your body cannot process it. Eating too many carbohydrates can also be counterproductive. You have to look at what your body needs and can handle. The best way to test this is to experiment with it and see where your limits lie. What is in any case unhealthy for (during) exercise: fries, (milk) chocolate, fried food.

Sports drinks: smart or not?

Many athletes drink sports drinks to supplement their deficiencies. Is this a good option?

Benefits of sports drinks

  • Sports drinks contain good substances, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chlorine. This means that fluid is absorbed faster by your body and you drink more because salt causes extra thirst.

Disadvantages of sports drinks

  • If the drink contains many acids, you will damage your teeth. Therefore, pay close attention to the spout: there are special sports spouts that do not let the drink pass your teeth.
  • Sports drinks are especially necessary for trained athletes who train for more than an hour at a time. If you occasionally run for half an hour and do not sweat excessively, it is sufficient to eat normally after exercising.
  • There are sports drinks that contain a lot of sugar. You need carbohydrates, but refined sugars appear not to be very good for you. Therefore, choose sports drinks with the right ratio for you.
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Every body is different. Perhaps you function better if you eat a large meal, such as pasta, just before exercising, and you do not suffer from stitches after eating. Perhaps you train better if you have eaten little and only eat a large meal afterwards. So it is always good to try something out during your training, so that you know exactly how to get the best out of yourself before a competition or other major performance.

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