This is perhaps the most frequent question for those who are new to exercise. Let’s compare the human body to a car; our bodies need the best gas for a demanding road trip, such as working out.
The first thing we must ask ourselves is what type of exercise are we going to do… is it high intensity (short term) like crossfit, HIT (high intensity training) or weight lifting, or is it short and moderate intensity (long term) like running, cycling or swimming? Determining this helps us establish the strategy. No matter what type of exercise you prefer, the fuel our body uses as main source of energy is carbohydrate; this is why we should seek a meal or snack with high carb content before training.
Studies have shown that the average body is capable of oxidizing 1g of carbohydrate per minute to produce energy, which takes us to the conclusion that for one hour of training we need to provide our body with a minimum range of 30 to 60 g of carbohydrates.
Where can we find 30 to 60 g of carbohydrates?
|Options||Grams of carbohydrates|
|1 loaf of White bread with jam / marmalade (1spoonful)||30g|
|1 glass of natural fruit juice 250ml||30g|
|2 loaves of White bread with jam /marmalade (2 spoonful)||60g|
|1 loaf of bread with jam /marmalade (1spoonful)
+ ½ banana
|1 medium mango||30g|
|2 small compotes||42g|
|2 ½ cups of strawberries||30g|
|3 pineapple rounds||45g|
Now, you may wonder what happens with the rest of the nutrients (proteins and fat). After many studies, it is widely accepted that a low consumption of protein may boost sports performance. Nonetheless, these results have been observed in high strength and intensity training. The proteins start to play a major role mostly in the post training phase for muscle recovery, pain reduction and muscle protein synthesis.
As for the consumption of fat before training (olive oil, peanut butter, almonds, nuts, Nutella, etc), they are known to slow gastric emptying and the carbohydrate absorption needed in the bloodstream during exercise. The same thing happens with food rich in fiber; cereals, brans and similar products are not recommended.
In sessions of 1 hour where one works on flexibility such as YOGA, I would recommend a carbohydrate portion no larger than 30g. This will suffice to endure and enjoy the session.
How much time before?
It is ideal that the snack before training be maximum 1 hour to 30 minutes before starting the workout session. The closer to your workout you take your snack, the softer and closer to liquid it should be. This will ensure proper digestion and prevent gastrointestinal discomfort during your training session.
Every body is different so it’s a good idea to try through personal experience. Take advice from experts but listen to your body and make the most comfortable and effective choices for your habits and lifestyle. Enjoy your training!
About the Author:
Maria Astrid Esteves, Lic. is a licensed Nutritionist & Dietician with a degree from Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) and a Marketing Diploma from Universidad Católica Andres Bello (UCAB). She has a Level 2 certification from the International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry (ISAK) and is a project leader with the Bienfit Health Group. She is also a nutritionist with the CCS Multisport Center and a spokesperson for the Gatorade Sports Science Insititute- Venezuela (GSSI). Maria is dedicated to advising and helping triathletes and runners maximize their performance. She is available for private nutrition consultations in person or via Skype.
To learn more, email Maria Astrid Esteves at firstname.lastname@example.org