Q: Is it better to exercise before you eat or after?

A: Deciding when the best time to eat with exercise is a difficult question. The answer depends upon many factors including what type of exercise is involved, how long you are going to exercise and what time of day you are exercising.

Eating is important because food provides your body with calories that fuel the body. Calories assist the muscles and also help prevent low sugars (hypoglycemia) in certain situations. If you are going to exercise for long periods you may need more calories before you exercise. Also, athletes involved in vigorous training will require more calories.

If you eat before you exercise, pay attention to the size of the meal. A large meal will require two to three hours of digestion before exercise while a smaller snack may require only 30 minutes to an hour of digestion.

Because some exercise is very strenuous and some workouts last for longer time periods, you may require food before and after exercise. Again, such a decision depends upon the exercise type and length.

Remember that it is important to eat balanced, healthy meals on a daily basis regardless of exercise type and amount. Another important component is remembering to drink plenty of fluids with exercise so you won't become dehydrated with activity; sports drinks that contain both sugar and salts are recommended if planning to exercise for extended periods.

If you have more specific questions, please contact your doctor or a nutritionist about what exercise and diet plan will work best for you.

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