South Denver Cardiologist Tips: Should You Be Eating Before or After Exercise?

With the holiday season before us, we often begin to worry about the extra pounds we will inevitably gain. You will want to make sure you have a good routine in place so you can burn off those extra calories more quickly. Any Denver cardiologist will tell you the cardiovascular benefits of a good workout. The question is, if you are trying to maximize the effects of exercise, should you be exercising before or after eating? The cardiologists at South Denver Cardiology are here to help. The truth is, there are benefits and drawbacks to doing it both ways.

When eating before exercise, timing is the key. Your body uses a lot of energy to digest food. When exercising too soon after eating, you run the risk of indigestion, shortness of breath, “heavy” legs, and possibly angina or heart symptoms. The body shunts more blood to the digestive tract after eating. It is important to allow the body sufficient time to digest, 30-45 minutes for a snack or light meal, and 45-60 minutes is required for a complete meal. During cardiovascular exercise the leg muscles demand a greater distribution of blood flow. Digesting and exercising at the same does not allow the body to function efficiently. Fueling before exercise provides a readily available source of calories to burn.

However, what you eat is just as important as when you eat. Eating a bacon cheeseburger with fries an hour before exercising, may cause problems. The high fat meal “paralyzes” the arteries for two to four hours after consumption. Balance your meal with a combination of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats, and remember not to forget water. Your food is your fuel, and you don’t want to be putting unleaded, dirty fuel into your system when you could be going for premium every time.

When you decide you don’t want to deal with the nuances of what you eat, you choose to exercise before eating. The obvious drawback is that you could be running on fumes. When exercising without eating you may feel just fine, or you may feel weak and hypoglycemic. Some people exercise first thing in the morning and do well, others need to fuel first. It all comes down to how you feel. Make sure your body is primed and ready for activity by staying well hydrated and having enough energy in your tank to exercise. If you need fuel before exercising, usually a lite snack of 100 calories 30-60 minutes before exercise will do the trick. So here is the bottom line, if you feel weak or dizzy, or just run out of gas during your workouts, then having that snack before exercising will be the key. If you are diabetic or hypoglycemic make sure you know your blood sugar prior to exercise. Replenishing your fuel sources within 30 minutes after exercise with a light snack of chocolate milk or a smoothie will also help you recover more quickly.

How to use this information,

Exercising is important for a healthy heart. Make sure that you exercise regularly, and listen to your body for appropriate individual guidelines, such as when and what to eat. Then make sure you see your cardiologist for annual check-ups to maintain heart health. For those in Colorado, there is no better than the cardiologists at South Denver Cardiology.

Do you prefer to eat before or after exercise?