With all of the marketing of sports drinks, bars, gels and powders, this is an excellent question to ask. There’s certainly no harm in eating — and it might help you meet your fitness goals by giving you more energy during the actual run or elliptical workout.
Recovery is a fundamental element of training and racing, but is underestimated by many athletes. It is particularly important for those who train multiple times per day, six days a week, as inadequate recovery can reduce the body’s capacity to maintain high-volume and high-intensity training sessions. In the long term, this can lead to fatigue, illness, injury and compromised performance.
During training, muscle proteins are broken down, and glycogen (carbohydrate) stores and electrolyte levels are reduced. Proper recovery allows the muscles to repair and adapt to the demands being made of them. This, in turn, leads to improvements in performance. For optimal recovery the body requires the right kinds of food in the right amounts.
Consumption of carbohydrates and fluids (including electrolytes) after exercise is recommended. Both are particularly important for those completing endurance exercise, when the likelihood of glycogen depletion and dehydration is high. The role of protein however is less well understood. Consumption of rapidly digestible, high-quality proteins such as whey and soy following intense training or racing will aid muscle repair and muscle soreness.
When it comes to working out what you eat, when, and how much, can all have an effect on how efficient your exercising is. Fueling your body properly for your next round of physical activity can be a science and this video and article are intended to help clear up some of the questions you have and give you a general understanding of why. Now keep in mind while reading this that our suggestions are based on what would work best for the largest population of typical exercisers. If you are a competitive athlete or have special dietary issues then you might not fall into the population that this is meant for.