Non Cramping Foods
April 24, 2008 9:32 AM   Subscribe

What are some "non-cramp" foods? I want some 'snack' foods that I can eat all day and not cramp on when I work out almost immediately after eating. This summer I'll be part of a college gym which is around 5 miles from my apartment. I want to be able to go to the gym without regard to if I'm starving or not. I know about bananas, but what other foods can I try?
posted by sandmanwv to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It has always been my understanding that you get cramps from eating and working out simply due to the fact that there's food that needs digesting, regardless of what that food is. Your body has to send more blood flow to your digestive system so those muscles can work, and when you exercise it has to send more blood flow to your limbs so those muscles can work. Trying to digest and work out at the same time means neither system is getting as much blood as it needs, which leads to cramping.

Bananas help prevent cramps due to their high levels of potassium, but this is after they've been digested. Potatoes are also good in this regard. But working out with a stomach full of bananas or potatoes is going to feel just as awful as working out with a stomach full of anything else.

My suggestion to you would be to eat small snacks throughout the day, rather than big meals. Granola bars, fruit, or yogurt cups are good. Leftover "real food" in yogurt-cup sized portions are also good. This will help keep your body fueled without ever putting your body into full-on "lay down and digest this feast for 3 hours" mode, so you should be ok to work out at any time.

I am not a doctor, trainer, etc. Just somebody who reads about this stuff for her own personal benefit.
posted by vytae at 9:44 AM on April 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

I regularly work out on a full stomach, and I never cramp. Foods I have eaten before and during strenuous exercise include: all fruits, raisins, cereal and milk, boost, ensure, gatorade, HEED, peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches, ice cream, hamburger, chili, beer, nuts, granola, granola bars, crackers and cheese, bagels, donuts, snickers, all other candy bars, etc ad nauseum.

In general, foods don't cause cramps for most people I know (and I know a lot) who work out. Some foods may cause nausea, and everyone is different in terms of what can cause nausea. The general rule of thumb is that the more vigorous the exercise, the less able to digest solids many people are.
posted by OmieWise at 9:47 AM on April 24, 2008

The cramping might be a myth, but If I try and work out on a full stomach, I get pretty sick to my stomach, so I definitely advocate the many small snacks advice.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:59 AM on April 24, 2008

Never cramped, though I did occasionally feel 'oogie' (I believe that's the technical term) if I ate heavy food before hard exercise. Stick to easy foods (oatmeal for breakfast rather than sausages) and you'll be fine.
posted by zippy at 10:05 AM on April 24, 2008

In my experience, bagels are an extremely "shelf-stable" pre-exercise food. I can eat two bagels and five minutes later go for a ten-mile run and have no issues. PB&J also works well. To generalize, I'd say bulky dry carbs in moderate quantities are ideal for pre-workout use.
posted by killdevil at 10:21 AM on April 24, 2008

I run between 4 and 10 miles 4 times a week (early in the morning), and I usually eat a slice of wheat or whole grain toast with organic peanut butter and honey on it. I haven't had a problem yet.

I also swim pretty regularly, and I think snacking throughout the day (especially on almonds & cranberries) helps a bunch by the time I get to the pool around 5pm.

Good luck!
posted by cachondeo45 at 10:48 AM on April 24, 2008

vytae's pretty much got it. When digesting, blood wants to go to the stomach/intestines. When exercising, blood wants to go to the muscles. If you have too much food in your stomach while exercising, both activities are going to suffer.

I usually don't get cramps, but I get decreased athletic performance and indigestion.

The foods that cyclists/runners eat while training are specifically designed to be digested without causing problems during athletic activity. Powerbars (not the protein/recovery ones), powergels, bananas, sandwiches, honey - these can all be eaten without too much trouble. I believe your body can only digest ~200 calories an hour during exercise; it's why Powerbars don't come any bigger.
posted by meowzilla at 11:24 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

V-8 is chock full of potassium. More so even than bananas. Might be lighter on the stomach.
posted by Carbolic at 11:38 AM on April 24, 2008

As I sit here eating some Sunsweet prunes as an afternoon snack, I'm reading on the back of the package that one ounce of prunes delivers more potassium that one ounce of bananas (208 mg vs 101). Despite expert advice to eat *something* pre-workout, I work out in the mornings and do not eat breakfast first, so I can't speak to the prunes related to that. But they are tasty.
posted by misskaz at 12:54 PM on April 24, 2008

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