What we eat before and after exercise can have a significant impact on our performance, endurance, strength and energy levels. It can get confusing thinking about which nutrients we need to include, when, how much we need to eat and within which time frame.
Which foods and how much to eat both before and after exercise depends on the type, duration and intensity of the workout. As well as your personal preference and lifestyle. Busy and on the go post workout? A smoothie or protein shake might be best for you. Have more time and take it easy? Some eggs on toast with mushrooms could be the winner.
Let’s break it down and take a look at what to include before and after training.
Fuelling your body with the right nutrients before exercise will give you the energy you need to perform well and enjoy your session. The focus before exercise should be carbohydrates, to provide your body with energy for your workout. Including a smaller amount of protein and healthy fat is beneficial too.
This meal can help to delay the onset of fatigue and increase endurance as well as also keeping your hunger levels down during your workout. Protein and fat help to slow the digestion of carbohydrates, so the closer your meal to your session, the less protein or fat you should eat.
Aiming to eat a meal 2-4 hours before a workout allows plenty of time for the meal to be digested and to leave you feeling satisfied. Snacking within 1 hour to 30 minutes can help give those energy levels a boost too. Avoid too much fibre within 1 hour to 30 minutes of exercise as this can make you feel full and uncomfortable. The closer you are to the start of your training session, the smaller the meal or snack should be.
Eating well is just as important after exercising as it is before. Fuelling correctly following a workout can help with your recovery, reducing muscle soreness, fatigue and assisting with performance in your next workout.
Here pairing carbohydrates with protein will help to restore energy levels, aid muscle recovery and repair while preparing you for your next workout. Good nutrition here helps your body adapt to the stress imposed during exercise.
The harder and longer you trained for the more carbohydrates you will need to replace. Carbohydrate intake will also need to be higher for endurance activity such as swimming, cycling or running, compared to a strength session.
Consuming a high protein and carbohydrate filled snack or meal as soon as possible will be beneficial. However there is no magic number, aim for the meal or snack to be nutrient dense and include what you need. Provided you have enough calories, carbohydrate and protein over a 24-hour period your muscles will recover before your next workout.
Check out these meal and snack ideas for before and after your workouts.
|Meals||Porridge with fruit and yogurt Jacket potato with tuna or cheese Tomato based pasta with meat, beans or tofu Rice, quinoa, potatoes or couscous with chicken or tofu and vegetables Bagel with Jam or honey and banana A sandwich/wrap/pitta/bagel with chicken, fish, cheese, egg or falafel||Meat, prawn or tofu stir fry Fish pie Mince or bean chilli with rice Lasagne Chicken, tofu, lentil or chickpea curry Omelette with toast Beans on toast Peanut butter and banana on toast Eggs on toast with tomatoes and mushrooms Pasta with lentil or mince Bolognese|
|Snacks||Toast with Jam, nut butter or honey Yogurt with fruit Oat muffin Oat cakes with jam Dried fruit and nuts or seeds Banana smoothie Oat or granola bars||Glass of milk and banana or cereal bar Tuna or egg sandwich Pitta bread with cottage cheese or hummus Yogurt with fruit Overnight oats with fruit and yogurt|
This is only a guide, there is no strict rules to follow to get the best results. The best meals and snacks for you are those which make you feel good, fuel your workouts and leave you feeling satisfied.