So you have just taken out that gym membership and you want to get the most out of your workouts. It is important to have energy to fuel each workout so you are able to keep to your training routine. If you an early riser and head straight to the gym you need some fuel to get your day started. After your workout you need to replace nutrients used during your workout and sometimes you will need to refuel in the middle of a longer workout.

Before you exercise

It is important to eat before you exercise otherwise you could be breaking down muscle tissue and adding unnecessary stress to your body. The right mix of nutrients will stop this and give you enough energy to complete your routine.

Ideally your meal should be around 2 hours prior to exercise but this is not always possible. If you are an early riser and head straight to the gym you still need to have a snack. It is important to drink water before you workout. Your body needs to be hydrated to work properly. If you can’t drink before you workout make sure you drink after.

For a meal 2 hours before exercise you need a 300 to 500 calorie meal consisting mainly of healthy carbohydrates and lean proteins. Fats are a no as they are hard to digest and can give you a stomach ache. They also take oxygen away from muscles while trying to digest.

Choose from the following meal options:

If you can only eat 45 minutes or less, maybe even 10 minutes before a workout a snack of 50 to 100 calories of the same carbohydrates and a small amount of protein is really beneficial. If you are eating right before your workout grab a piece of fruit, a banana or apple is ideal or a handful of almonds or crackers with peanut butter.

Choose from the following foods that are easily digested:

  • bowl of oatmeal or wholegrain toast spread with avocado
  • brown rice
  • Greek unsweetened yoghurt
  • cottage cheese
  • salmon or chicken

Eating during a workout

This could be necessary if your routine us longer than one hour. You will need to replenish some carbohydrates that you have used up. Research has shown that if you don’t eat during a loner workout you will actually burn less calories and less fat. Also your after workout calorie burning is less too.

It is important to have a snack if you are doing a couple of exercise classes close together. Try a handful of dried fruit such as raisins or sultanas and maybe add a few almonds. A protein enriched bar and a drink of water works well too. It is important to drink during a routine if it is a treadmill run or stationary bike ride.
The aim is to eat just enough nutrients to keep your body working rather than replenish all the energy you have outlaid.

After exercise

There is an optimum time to eat after a workout and this window is between 20 minutes and one hour after your workout. During this time your body is better able to use the food for recovery and energy storage for your next workout or physical activity. If you wait outside of this window you may run out of energy on your afternoon run or exercise routine.

Again the ideal post workout meal will combine good carbohydrates and lean protein with some good fats. The carbohydrates should be in a slightly larger quantity than the protein but don’t get yourself too worried about the quantities. If you aren’t going home after your workout take a small meal with you. A chicken salad sandwich on wholegrain bread with avocado is a great post workout meal. Teamed with a protein shake it is ideal.

Nutrition and exercise

When you workout or go for a run or bike ride your muscles are using up stored energy of glycogen and muscle mass can be broken down. The right mix of nutrients before, during and after exercise will replace this glycogen and repair and regrow muscle mass. A mix of carbohydrates and protein will help you achieve this.

The right nutrients will:

  • Replace stored energy (glycogen) ready for next workout
  • Increase muscle mass and muscle growth
  • Enhance recovery