Eating before exercise is ‘worthwhile’ and ‘important’ to help weight loss says expert

Carol Vorderman shows off her biceps during fitness chat

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Will Girling is a London-based sports nutritionist who has worked with numerous athletes, as well as some celebrities such as DJ and Capital Xtra presenter Manny Norte. Will shared his top diet and fitness tips, including why it is important to eat before doing exercise.

Protein and carbohydrates are essential nutrients the body needs to be able to maintain energy during a period of physical activity, said Will.

He explained: “You definitely need to take on carbohydrates before a session of high intensity exercise.”

This means an exercise session lasting 90 minutes or more.

“Eating carbs during the two to four hours before the exercise, or sooner beforehand if you are training very early in the morning, is a good idea,” said Will.

Will explained that eating before exercise is essential to “get the most out of that physical activity”.

“You need to make sure you have enough energy in the body to be able to continue performing that high intensity exercise,” he said.

The sports nutritionist added: “There is no point going into high intensity exercise and then towards the end of that struggling to maintain output, which will also then in turn reduce calorie output because you won’t be working as hard.”

Eating carbohydrates beforehand will therefore mean that you can work harder and “push out more effort”, said Will.

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Will added: “More effort means burning more calories.”

Therefore, eating before exercise may lead to more weight loss than if you don’t eat beforehand.

“I would say that making sure that you have the energy to perform the exercise is the most important thing,” said Will.

The sports nutritionist added that carbohydrates are also “worthwhile in helping maintain glucose levels during physical activity”.

Will also recommended eating during a period of exercise if you need that extra energy boost to carry you through until the end.

He said: “Realistically, if you’re exercise session is below 90 minutes then you don’t need to take any carbohydrates during the activity, as we’ve found that if people have adequate carbohydrate intake beforehand they don’t need anything during to maintain performance.”

However, if the exercise goes beyond 90 minutes, Will advises taking on carbohydrates during.

“If you were to do a two- or three-hour bike ride, you would need to take on around 30 to up to 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour to fuel that exercise,” he explained. 

The foods that Will recommended eating during exercise are high in carbohydrates but low in fat.

He said: “Simple things like dried fruit or flapjacks are good.”

“Malt loaf is another option, as well as certain cereal bars, and even a jam sandwich,” he added.

Will also advised eating protein regularly if you are doing a lot of exercise a few times a week, but the body does not necessarily need that protein immediately after a fitness session.

“You don’t need to eat a lot after exercise, but I would recommend having protein every three to four hours in a day if you can,” said Will.

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