What and when you eat before exercising can make a massive difference to the quality of your workout. Food consumed before exercise is only useful once digested and absorbed, which is why you need to get the timing right. As a general guide, aim to have a normal sized meal 3-4 hours or a lighter snack 1-2 hours before exercise*. Food choices within 1 hour of exercising should be high in carbohydrate and relatively low in fat, fibre and protein to make digestion easier and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort.
Some appropriate foods to eat 3-4 hours pre-workout include:
- Pasta/rice + low-fat ingredients (tomato sauce, steamed veggies, lean meat)
- Baked beans + toast
- Fruit salad + cereal + yoghurt
- Eggs and avocado on toast
Some appropriate foods to eat 1-2 hours pre-workout include:
- Fruit smoothie (fruit, milk, yoghurt)
- Crumpet + jam/honey + glass milk
- Fruit flavoured yoghurt
- Cereal bar + banana
Some appropriate foods to eat within 1 hour before a workout include:
- Small can creamed rice
- ½ low fat cereal bar
- ½ jam/honey sandwich (avoid grainy bread too close to a workout)
Poor food and beverage choices after exercise can greatly affect your body’s ability to recover, which can be detrimental to your energy levels and the quality of your next training session*. The purpose of a post workout meal/snack is to ensure that enough fuel is supplied to repair broken down muscle tissue and replenish glycogen stores. Ideally, aim to eat a snack or light meal containing both carbohydrate and protein after exercise. It is important to consume your carbohydrate and protein rich snack within the first 30 minutes after exercise, and no later than 1 hour after a workout, to gain maximum benefit**.
Some carbohydrate and protein rich snack/meal ideas include:
- Homemade pizzas made using pita breads + lean meat + reduced-fat cheese + vegetables
- Tuna/mayo mix + salad + wholegrain roll
- Yoghurt + fruit + sprinkle of nuts
- Porridge + milk + yoghurt + fruit
- Flavoured milk and a piece of fruit
- Fruit smoothie with milk and yoghurt
Being well hydrated is essential if you want to perform or train at your best. Water should be your first choice both pre- and post-workout. If your workout is longer than one hour, a sports electrolyte drink may be necessary. If you are unsure whether you are adequately hydrated, check the colour of your urine, it should be a pale yellow.