Food won’t cramp exercise

IT’S the age-old warning we never seem to know the answer to: can we exercise after eating?Some may avoid a pre-workout meal in fear of cramps or nausea. Others might think they can burn more fat on an empty stomach.

But is it OK to workout with a stomach full of food? Misconceptions surrounding eating and exercise come down to personal tolerance, experts say.

While nutritionists agree that gut discomfort is a reason to not exercise after a meal, that should be the only reason.

Julia Phillips, a Sutherland Shire dietitian and sports nutritionist , says it comes down to a person’s health and training purpose.

“A reason to not eat prior to exercise is that the process of digestion directs blood supply to the gut, directing it away from the cardiovascular and muscular system,” Phillips said.

“This makes it more difficult to exercise and causes gastrointestinal upsets, fatigue, and loss of concentration as some people need to rest after eating.

“But if a person can eat before training without suffering these systems, than it is recommended to eat something before training as this will ensure the muscle is well stocked with energy substrates such as glucose to ensure optimal performance or training output throughout the training period and will support recovery.”

The amateur person at the gym looking to lose weight can still eat a small meal 30 to 90 minutes before a workout.

Louise Bourke, head of sport nutrition at the Australian Institute of Sport, encourages athletes to eat before an event so the extra fuel can help them compete at their best.

This could include bigger meals based on carbohydrate-rich foods three hours before an event and top-ups of snacks or drinks right up to the event.

“The issue will be finding a type of food or drink that provides the fuel without causing gut discomfort during the exercise,” Bourke said.

“Athletes practise this in training to come up with the best routine for their competition, and each athlete is different with what they like and tolerate.”