How to Absorb More Nutrients for Exercise

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Proper nutrition is a key component to getting the most out of exercise and seeing the results you are striving for. Eating the right foods before and after a workout will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to build muscle and reduce fat. Knowing which foods work well in combination and which don't is another way to ensure you're optimizing bioavailability and can absorb the most nutrients from your food.

Pre- and Post-Workout Meals

  • Eat breakfast in the morning before you exercise; this will ensure you have enough energy for your workout and avoid a drop in your blood sugar. Choose foods with carbohydrates, like whole grains, natural juices and bananas, to give you the most energy. Eat a lighter breakfast if you work out in the morning, but give yourself at least 30 minutes to an hour for your food to digest so you can absorb the most nutrients, gain energy and avoid stomach cramps.

  • Eat a snack one to two hours before you exercise if you don't exercise in the morning. Avoid large meals, which should be eaten at least four hours before you exercise. Avoid unhealthy fats as well, since these do not provide the necessary nutrients for exercise. Choose carbs and fruits, as they will digest quickly and provide the best nutrition for your workout.

  • Eat within two hours of your workout to aid in muscle recovery and glycogen replacement, according to MayoClinic.com. Choose foods with plenty of protein and carbs like yogurt and other low-fat diary, fresh or dried fruit, lean meats, crackers, peanut butter and other nuts. Eat a small snack if you are not hungry after your workout, but make sure you eat during this time frame to properly absorb the necessary nutrients for your body to function optimally.

  • Drink plenty of fluids, including water and sports drinks, before, during and after a workout; this will prevent you from becoming dehydrated and will help your body transport nutrients to your muscles when you exercise. Drink around 2 to 3 cups of water two to three hours before you exercise, approximately 1/2 to 1 cup every 15 to 20 minutes while you exercise and about 2 to 3 cups after your workout for every pound you lose while exercising, according to MayoClinic.com.

Food Combinations

  • Include a source of vitamin C, like orange slices, in your meals when you eat plant-based sources of iron, like spinach, to help your body absorb this type of iron more readily. Avoid consuming items that contain phenols like coffee and tea and calcium-rich dairy products when you eat iron-rich food, since these items will inhibit the absorption of iron; this is important since your body needs plenty of iron to sustain energy and prevent anemia when you exercise.

  • Cook tomatoes and carrots when you eat them so that your body can more easily absorb the antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene; this can help repair muscle cells damaged by free radicals that may otherwise result in muscle fatigue during exercise.

  • Eat healthy fats with your salads, like avocado and olive oil, to help your body better absorb the fat-soluble nutrients found in veggies like vitamins A, D, E and K and lutein and lycopene.

  • Eat smaller fruits rather than larger ones, since they contain less water and have greater nutrient density, according to Steven Hoffman of the U.S. agricultural group The Organic Center.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consult your doctor before starting a new diet or exercise routine.

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References

  • Photo Credit Max Oppenheim/Photodisc/Getty Images
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