If you’ve mustered the determination to drag yourself to the gym, high five! That’s half the battle won. But once you’re on that treadmill, the real challenge is finding the energy to exert hard. Did you know that your body requires the right kind of fuel to perform, especially through those last ten minutes of spinning class? While you know not to load up on biryani, pizza, or kulfi falooda an hour or two before a sweat session but there are some more surprising, even apparently healthy, pre-workout foods that are guaranteed to weigh you down. As compiled from Women’s Health magazine, discover foods that make the worst exercise fuel.
Salad haters rejoice! While a diet rich in salads and veggies is normally amazing for your health, raw greens like lettuce, spinach and broccoli can cause serious discomfort when you’re on the move. “Thanks to their high-fibre content, leafy green vegetables are almost guaranteed to cause abdominal distention, aka gas and bloating,” says Philip Goglia, author of Turn Up The Heat: Unlock the Fat-Burning Power of Your Metabolism. “If you’re in the mood for something light before your workout, swap a green salad for a green smoothie,” suggests Katie Serbinski, a registered dietitian. Don’t ditch greens though — just mix your favourite fruit with a half a cup of greens, water and some dried oats or granola. This mix will go down way easier and ensure an efficient workout.
This one might come as a shocker to many, but sports drinks might be hurting your workouts. Your favourite athlete might guzzle bottles of the latest muscle juice, but most brands on the market offer little nutrition — and way too much sugar. “Sports drinks can offer some vitamins and electrolytes but the high sugar content goes through your system in the blink of an eye, causing you to crash later on,” shares Serbinksi. “Instead, opt for a lower sodium tomato juice, which provides potassium, promotes healthy blood pressure and may even help you stay hydrated thanks to its low-sodium content,” advises Nancy Teeter, a registered dietitian.
Chholas and beans
There’s no doubt that beans and chholas are a great source of protein. But they can be heavy on your stomach and leave you gassy — and that’s the last thing you need while going for a bench press. Also, prepackaged hummus and bean dips often contain lots of added oils and are prone to molding. “If you’ve personally soaked the beans prior to cooking them, then you’re releasing the mold from them, but if not… you run the risk of consuming a high-mold food that can lead to inflammation and reduction of oxygen consumption,” says Goglia. “Most athletes distance themselves from prepackaged dips of this sort for that very reason.” To avoid feeling bloated and heavy, fuel up with a few bites of low-fat cottage cheese instead. It’s light, satiating and protein-rich without any added oils.
Whole grain bread
Sorry to burst your bubble but while ordering the whole-grain version of just about anything is usually a good move, it’s not when you’re about to work out. “Carbs in general that are yeast, mold, and gluten-bound are inflammatory, meaning they hold water and cause bloating,” says Goglia. “They’re providing you with energy because they’re a sugar, but the side effects far outweigh the benefits.” If you’re a carb fan and need some before your gym session, opt for a plain, white tortilla or wrap that has less fibre and top it with a little nut butter and sliced banana for an extra kick of energy, suggests Serbinski.
No one wants to push through a crampy, heartburn-inducing workout but that’s a risk you run when you load up on the previous night’s achaar gosht or those super spiced samosas and chutney. “Foods with that much flavour and seasoning require a great deal of digestion time, setting you up for a nap rather than a heavy workout,” shares Goglia. So, if you’re craving something sharp, opt for some chicken or plain beef shami kebabs that are jam-packed with protein and low in fat. If you’re eating out, just remember to indulge in foods that have reduced sodium and little-to-no artificial additives.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2016.