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Do You Need to Snack During Workouts?

Snacking during workouts may not improve performance.

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If you’re headed out for a run or ride, you might be better off leaving the energy bars and performance gels behind. There’s little evidence showing that snacking during short workouts actually improves performance. According to guidelines by the American College of Sports Medicine and other groups, athletes were encouraged to eat during exercise. Written by sports exercise and nutrition experts, a lot of it makes sense. For example, if you exercise, your body will need fluids, energy and other nutrients. However, there’s a lot of contradictory information about what, how much and when to eat. For many light to moderate exercisers, a category most fitness-minded people fall into, this might mean ditching the belt filled with strawberry-flavored energy gel. “Most of us really do not need to keep eating during a race to maintain energy and stamina,” Dr. Nancy Rodriguez, an author on the paper, told the New York Times

Because there are no set rules on eating and exercise, the best guideline is to look at your specific situation. Whether to eat during a workout depends upon your body—can you tolerate food during a run?—as well as the intensity and duration of your workout. It also makes a difference if you are running in the morning on an empty stomach. After fasting all night, you will probably need to eat before, or possibly during, your workout. For moderate exercise—typically under an hour—the research is mixed as to whether eating energy bars or drinks during a workout improves performance. The guidelines, though, say that a typical power drink during a one-hour workout is fine. Your best bet, though, is to eat a healthy meal after the workout. If you exercise longer or multiple times a day, you will need a lot more energy. This may mean eating more than three meals, along with several snacks, a day. You can also eat late in your workout or have a substantial snack late at night. Listen to your body. That’s your best guide. If you are exercising to lose weight, go easy on the energy supplements. They contain extra calories that you probably don’t need.

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