Nutrition isn’t the only factor capable of influencing digestive health. Physical activity is also important! This week I have a great article on Fueling for Exercise on the Low FODMAP Diet written by nutrition student volunteer Madeleine Farquhar. She explains the importance of fueling before and after exercising and gives some ideas for healthy low FODMAP snacks. Enjoy!
Exercise can be fun and it is great for your health. However, if you aren’t fueling properly exercise can leave you feeling tired and sore, preventing you from enjoying all of its great benefits! Not only is the type of food you eat before or after a workout important, but the timing is important as well. Luckily, there are lots of quick and easy snacks perfect for fueling for exercise. All of the snack examples in this article are of course low FODMAP.1
Benefits of Exercise
People often think of exercise simply as a way to burn calories, but it has so many other great benefits your body! In addition to weight management, exercise can also help lower elevated blood pressure and blood sugar.2 Exercise can improve your mood and it can also help you relax when you’re feeling stressed. It can even help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.2 Exercise is also beneficial for digestive health.3 Staying active throughout your day can help keep food moving regularly through your digestive system.3
Fuel Before Exercising
It is important to consider what you eat before your workout, since this is the fuel that is going to get you through whatever activity you happen to be doing. If you have planned out what time you are going to be exercising, try to finish eating larger meals 2-3 hours before starting your workout.4 This will ensure that your body has enough time to digest the food and you can avoid any stomach discomfort.
However, if you are feeling hungry an hour or less before a workout, it is okay to eat a small snack. Make sure it is low in fat and fibre, moderate in protein and relatively high in carbohydrates. This will allow your snack to digest quicker so you can feel great at the gym.4 An example of a good snack to consume within an hour of your workout would be a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter. This will keep your hunger at bay until you complete your workout, but it won’t weigh you down.
Fuel After Exercising
After a tough workout such as long-distance running or heavy weight lifting, your body has an approximately 30-minute long window where refueling is the most beneficial.5 During this timeframe your body will best be able to utilize nutrients to repair broken down muscle and replace lost energy stores.5 Eating within 30 minutes of your strenuous workout can help with recovery.5
Focus on consuming mainly protein and carbohydrates after your workout. Protein helps the body build muscle, which will help prevent muscle soreness the next day.5 Carbohydrates are important because they will help replenish your body’s energy stores.5 There are lots of snacks that combine these two important nutrients. You could have a hardboiled egg with some crackers. Or you could make a low FODMAP smoothie made with lactose free milk or soy milk (made with soy protein, not soy beans1), half a banana and 5 strawberries. If it’s been an especially tough workout, you can boost the protein by adding lactose-free plain yogurt or 2 tablespoons of a protein powder (lactose-free whey powder, brown rice protein powder or pea protein powder1).
If you finish your workout around a meal time, try include protein and carbohydrates in your meal. You could have chicken with brown rice and a spinach salad for lunch, or a tofu stir fry with quinoa and steamed veggies for dinner!
It is also important to remember that you may not need a large snack if your workout hasn’t been too strenuous. If you are using exercise primarily as a way to manage your weight, eating when you aren’t hungry can hinder your weight loss efforts. If you are participating in 60 minutes or less of light activity (such as walking), you don’t need a post-workout snack if you aren’t feeling hungry.
However, if you are vigorously exercising for an hour or more, you should refuel afterwards, even if you aren’t feeling extremely hungry at the time. This is particularly important if you are an athlete or have athletic goals. Although it is always important to listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, some people don’t feel especially hungry (and some may even feel some stomach discomfort) after a tough workout. If this is the case, try to eat something small that is easy on your stomach within 30 minutes of your workout, and then wait a little longer until you feel better to consume a bigger meal or snack.
There are all kinds of fun and exciting forms of exercise! When you are fueling your body properly you can ensure that you are feeling great before, during and after your workout. If you have any questions, leave a comment down below!
What are some of your favourite ways to keep active?
Are you experiencing digestive symptoms? Click here for 11 Simple Dietary and Lifestyle Changes to Help with IBS Management. Make sure to talk to your doctor and get help from a registered dietitian.
- Monash University. (n.d.). Low FODMAP smartphone app. Retrieved from http://www.med.monash.edu.au/cecs/gastro/fodmap/iphone-app.html
- Harvard Health Publications. (2011, February). Exercising to relax. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax
- Eat Right Ontario. (2016, October 9). Tips for health digestion. Retrieved from http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Digestion-Digestive-health/Tips-for-Healthy-Digestion.aspx
- Dietitian of Canada. (2016, June 15). Fuelling up before exercise. Retrieved from http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Sports-Nutrition-(Adult)/Fuelling-up-before-exercise.aspx
- Dietitian of Canada. (2014). Refuelling to recover after exercise. Retrieved from http://www.dietitians.ca/getattachment/df60319e-28c9-4419-a97b-9cad2bc56f56/FACTSHEET-Refuelling-to-recover-after-exercise-ENG.pdf.aspx
About the Guest Author
Madeleine Farquhar is a third-year Applied Human Nutrition Student at the University of Guelph. She especially enjoys learning about the impact nutrition can have on a person’s overall health and wellbeing. After she graduates, she hopes to share her passion for health and wellness with others while working in the healthcare field.
Are you looking for support with managing digestive symptoms and/or the low FODMAP diet? My nutrition counselling and coaching services are available across Canada (via video messaging or phone). I am a registered dietitian with a Master’s of Public Health in Nutrition who specializes in digestion and practical healthy eating tips. Learn more about my services by clicking here.