MANILA, Philippines - Engaging in physical activity on an empty stomach may have serious consequences on the body.
Skipping meals before exercise has been known to cause fatigue, dizziness, poor performance and low energy, among others.
Eating too much, however, is just as bad. Food that remains in your stomach during a workout may cause stomach upset, nausea and cramping, according to exercise physiologist and fitness consultant Elizabeth Quinn.
Quinn, who is a sports medicine writer for information website About.com, noted that one should allow a meal to fully digest before a workout, or about 1 to 4 hours.
"Everyone is a bit different, and you should experiment prior to workouts to determine what works best for you," she wrote in her article.
So when is the best time to eat when you have to exercise?
"If you have an early morning race or workout, it's best to get up early enough to eat your pre-exercise meal. If not, you should try to eat or drink something easily digestible about 20 to 30 minutes before the event," she wrote.
Quinn continued, "The closer you are to the time of your event, the less you should eat. You can have a liquid meal closer to your event than a solid meal because your stomach digests liquids faster."
What to eat
Consumer giant Nestle has noted that a pre-workout meal should generally be full of slow-burning complex carbohydrates such as whole grain cereals, fruits and vegetables.
Complex carbohydrates are the body's main source of fuel and should make up two-thirds of the average pre- and post-workout meal, the company said.
Nestle said one should stay away from refined or processed food as these can contribute to the rise in blood sugar, which makes the muscles store more glycogen.
"Glycogen is then used to 'fuel' the body during workout instead of using fat or calories," the company said in a statement.
Quinn, for her part, said meat, doughnuts, fries, potato chips and candy bars should be avoided in a pre-exercise meal since these are slow to digest and can cause cramping and discomfort.
She listed the following meals that one can take before a workout:
1 hour or less before exercise
- fresh fruits (apple, watermelon, peach, grapes, orange)
- energy gel
- up to 1.5 cups of a sports drink
2 to 3 hours before exercise
- fresh fruits
- bagels or pasta
3 to 4 hours before exercise
- fresh fruits
- bread, preferably bagels
- pasta with tomato sauce
- baked potatoes
- energy bar
- cereal with milk
- toast with a bit of peanut butter or cheese