What to eat before, during and after your workout!
What you eat before, during, and after your workout can have a significant impact on your performance, recovery, and overall health.
It’s important to fuel your body with the right nutrients before exercise, which will provide you with the energy and stamina to perform at your best. If you’re under fueling into a session, you may be making the workout harder for yourself. You can get away with exercising fasted if the workout is less than an hour and at low intensity, but anything more than that I would recommend getting some fuel in the tank.
Aim to have your pre-workout meal (3 to 4 hours before) or snack (1 to 2 hours before) before your workout – ideally you want to avoid eating large meals too close to exercise to avoid any digestive issues. Your preworkout meal should be based around carbohydrates and protein, with a small amount of fat.
Pre-workout meal and snack ideas
- Porridge made with milk and a spoonful of nut butter
- Stuffed sweet potato with tuna and sweetcorn or veggie
- Pasta with mincemeat and cheese
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich on wholemeal bread
- Fruit smoothie with protein powder
- Greek yogurt with berries and granola
- 1 – 2 bananas
If your workout is less than an hour, you probably don’t need to consume any additional food. Water is generally all you need during your workout – this will apply to most gym – goers. However, if your workout lasts longer than 60 – 90 minutes, you will need to keep your energy levels up by taking on some extra carbs. In this case, start fueling 45 – 60 minutes into your workout with 30g – 60g of carbohydrates per hour for exercise lasting up to 1 – 2.5 hours. Ideally, it should be high in carbohydrates, low in fibre, easy to digest and familiar to you to avoid gut upset.
Snack ideas for during your workout:
- Handful of dried fruit
- Jam and/or peanut butter sandwich
- Fruit and nut bar
- Sports energy gels
- 500ml sports drink
- Jelly beans
After exercise, your body needs nutrients to repair and rebuild muscles, replenish energy stores, and reduce inflammation – and, of course, don’t forget fluid (or electrolyte) replacement. There is no major urgency to eat straight away (unless training twice per day), but it is generally advisable to get some fuel in whenever you can and continue to fuel throughout the day beyond the “post- workout window”.
Post workout meal and snack ideas
- A smoothie made with milk, yogurt, banana and berries
- A pot of yogurt with fruits and granola
- Oatcakes with peanut butter and strawberries or hummus
- Overnight oats made with oats, milk, yogurt and fruits
- Chicken or fish, rice and your choice of veggies
- Whole-grain pasta with lean meat or tofu and tomato sauce
- Sweet potato and black bean tacos with avocado and salsa
The amount of food and the timing of meals will depend on your individual needs and goals, so it’s important to experiment and find what works best for you. In summary, eating before, during, and after a workout can help improve your performance, reduce the risk of fatigue, prevent low blood sugar, and aid in recovery. It’s important to consume the right nutrients in the right amounts and at the right times to optimize your results.
It’s worth noting that the above guidelines are general and may need to be adapted to suit the specific requirements of your sport. Each sport has unique demands, and the timing, quantity, and composition of meals or snacks may differ depending on the type of activity. Therefore, it’s essential to seek advice from a registered dietitian who can create a personalized nutrition plan that aligns with your goals, preferences, and health status.
Clinical Dietitian – Nutritionist, MSc