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What to Eat Before and After your Workout

selection of food and pink dumbbells' sit on a table
woman mid step while running.
By Gina Boon Accredited Practising Dietitian

With new year's resolutions well and truly underway, you may be aiming to increase your physical activity or amount of exercise in 2023. Increase your health and performance with our dietitian's pre and post-workout food suggestions!

The food we eat is our fuel. Therefore we need to ensure we are fuelling appropriately before exercise to ensure we make it through to the end of the workout. The higher the intensity, the more fuel we need. So a half marathon will require more fuel than a 20 minute weights session. But both require appropriate fuelling and nutritional recovery.

The two macronutrients to focus on are

Protien and Carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are essential both pre-and post-workout, as they are the main fuel used in exercise, particularly in longer physical activity (more than 1 hour). Carbohydrates help build fuel reserves, delay fatigue and improve recovery after an exercise session.

Protein is the building block of the body's muscle, bone, skin and hormones and is required for building and maintaining muscle, recovery, and satiety (feeling full and satisfied after a meal).

banana on toast

Before a Workout

Focus on a meal or snack that is comfortable in your stomach and rich in carbohydrates but also low in fibre and easy to digest.

A few ideas include:

  • A box of sultanas
  • Banana
  • Crumpets or toast with banana and honey
  • Fruit Smoothie
  • Small tub yoghurt + fruit
  • A few small sushi rolls.
bowl of muesli with yoghurt

After a Workout (Within 2 hours)

Focus on recovery and replenishment, using good quality carbohydrates and protein.

A few ideas include:

  • Eggs on toast
  • Muesli and yoghurt
  • Rice cakes with avocado, chicken and cheese
  • 1 cup flavoured milk
  • Wholegrain salad roll with cold meat or tofu.
table of food swaps for post workout recovery

What about Supplements/Protein Shakes/Bars?

Mixed macronutrient supplements, such as protein powders, bars, balls or drinks, and energy-dense, compact sources of protein, carbohydrates and micronutrients. They can be used when consuming food that is not practical, suitable, or accessible or when appetite is suppressed. But beware of the price tag! These types of supplements are usually very expensive and usually not necessary. Ideally, we want to be choosing foods first.

So fuel up well before you work out, and replenish afterwards with a snack or meal within 2 hours. Don't forget your water, either!

Remember - your requirements may differ depending on the type of activity you are undertaking, the time you train, and your health and fitness goals.

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