January 27th, 2009
03:05 PM ET

Tips to keep you on your feet

By Cristina Hernandez
CNN Medical Producer

I was in church with a friend on Sunday night. The weather outside was chilly, but the air inside the church felt, hot, thick, and many people were clustered together. It was stifling. As we both kneeled, I looked to the left and noticed that my friend had slumped down, with his eyes open and his arms were flopping loosely. At first, I didn't know what was happening, and I was terrified. My first thought was, "Did he faint or have a stroke? What's happening?" I called his name, too loudly for inside a church, and he didn't seem to hear me, even though his eyes were open. A few minutes passed and he seemed to regain his consciousness. I realized that he had fainted.

He didn’t give me the chance to help him sit down. I think he was embarrassed, and he went outside to breathe the cold, fresh air. I found him pacing in the chill. Thank goodness, he was OK. We went to my house, and I offered him a snack and gave him something to drink, which he said made him feel better. He explained that he had jogged seven miles earlier in the day, and he had eaten only two pieces of toast - clearly not enough food to replenish his energy after a long run. He also may have become dehydrated after he ran.

According to the Mayo Clinic, fainting occurs when the blood supply to your brain is disrupted, causing loss of consciousness. It usually lasts for just a few seconds or minutes. Fainting can occur for many reasons, and it becomes more common with advancing age. While my friend’s fainting incident was caused by skipping meals and possibly being dehydrated after his vigorous workout, it’s important to note that fainting after exercise can also signal a hidden health problem, and it’s a good idea to consult your health professional to rule out any serious medical issues.

It's important to fuel your body properly, before and after working out. According to Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist, if you have not eaten within three hours before a workout, it's a good idea to have a small, carbohydrate-rich snack, such as whole grain crackers, cereal, fruit, or half a peanut butter sandwich. Eat the snack 30 to 45 minutes before your workout to give you energy. If you plan to eat a meal within two hours after your workout, you probably don't need a post-workout snack unless you have exercised for longer than 90 minutes. In that case, a snack containing protein and carbohydrates - a fruit smoothie, yogurt, or cottage cheese and fruit - can help your body to rebuild or protect muscle, especially if the workout includes weight training. If you ate a meal within the last three hours, and are planning a short 30-minute cardiovascular workout, Jampolis says, you probably don't need any extra calories before or after you exercise. Avoid eating too much fiber before you work out. Fiber slows down digestion and can cause gas and cramping.

Don't forget the importance of keeping your body properly hydrated. Water is the best way to replace lost fluids. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, physical activity causes the body to lose water primarily through sweat, urination and breathing, even in cold weather. If you exercise during hot weather, dehydration can occur more quickly and impair both physical and mental performance. Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, rapid heartbeat, dark colored urine and dizziness, which can lead to fainting. The key to a successful and comfortable workout is to replace lost fluids by drinking plenty of water or other liquids before, during and after you exercise.

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soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Ratna, New York, NY

    Dear Cristina Hernandez,

    We are all victims of misinformation of the several diet-programs that are out there: low-carb, low-fat, high protein etc. What dieters should measure inot the succes-rate of the diet program in losing weight, but the success rate of maintaining a healthy life style.

    I did an nutritionist assignment and fillled in a typical day that I would eat (3000 kcal/day) according to my daily moderate/high activity level.

    THen there are days at which I do calorie counting an keep an intake of 2000 kcal/day. With the 2000 kcal/day diet, the nutritional data program calculated that my calcium and Vitamin D and K intake was more then 30% lower the required intake, then I would eat my normal 3000 kcal/day.

    With any type of diet -deviating of its proportion of Carbohydrates: Protein: Fat from the "standard balanced" nutrient recommendation, the body is deprived from its energy and nutrient sources. Carbohydrate is the primarily source of energy for the first 24 hour of fasting, protein is second and finally fat is the last resource of energy resource in a starving body. Keton bodies appear at a latest stage of starvation, something for Atkins to think about.

    Some creep who appeared on the show "The Doctors" came up with a raw-meat diet, claiming that it reversed his cancer. Between the Salmonella and the E. Coli, I think I'll pass on this one......as soon I'm finished throwing up.

    January 27, 2009 at 20:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. chris

    I have Just received a copy of my medical records and it is of little wonder that the cost of healthcare in this country is so high. Every entery on my record is "AT THE PAITENTS REQUEST", instead of at the the Dr's sugestion. I had my suspitions that when I went to see my Dr over the past few years I was trusting him to Give me the best possable Care but found myself undergoing un-nessasary testing. There appears to be little regulation as to what healthcare providers can get away with. However in the future I will be double checking and asking why my Dr is sending me for a test or consultation without addressing my origonal concerns.

    January 28, 2009 at 04:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Ruben

    I think this is a great blog!!..it describes exactly what I had felt and it has showed me a lot ahout the need to eat rigth before and after exercising. I do admire her work and I relate to her comments!!..
    Great article!

    January 28, 2009 at 15:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Lee, Yorktown, Virginia

    He fainted because he was kneeling. His circulation was cut off at his knees. I have seen this happen to people before. I managed to catch a person once as she tipped over from her kneeling position. It can also happen when a person is standing straight legged with knees locked.

    January 30, 2009 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Lauren Conley

    Probably this was just a case of wearing a coat in a hot place, and yet, had your friend been female, doubtless anorexia would have been considered. I hope you know your friend very well, well enough to see him eat. Men get eating disorders too.

    February 2, 2009 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.