When it comes to feeling fit and fab, we all know, a workout routine on point is only half the equation. Having your pre and post work out nutrition down pat to compliment your sweat sess is equally as important. Below, I am breaking down the ins and outs of eating for results, reduced fatigue and a speedy recovery.
Eating for Energy – Pre Workout
Aim to eat 45mins-1 hour before workout
Key food group: Carbohydrates
The focus here is to fuel your body to go that extra mile. When we pound the pavement, the liver breaks down glycogen and it is released as glucose in the bloodstream for energy. It’s important to have some glycogen on board to power workouts, this is especially true if doing straight cardio. A mix of simple and complex carbs is the best way to credit your glycogen bank. Place a source of protein on the menu also, especially if resistance training is part of your plan. Finally, to avoid feeling weighed down when all laced up and ready to go, opt for easily digested and light foods.
Try it At home:
- 1-2 brown rice cakes with 1/2 tbsp nut butter and ½ sliced pear
- Small bowl of low-sugar muesli or oats
- 1 banana + added raw nuts if needed
- 1 small tub natural yoghurt and handful of berries – best if doing resistance training
Try it on the go:
- 1 piece of fruit eg banana with 1 tbsp almond butter
- 1 cup roasted sweet potato, dollop yoghurt and 1 tsp honey
- Slice of home-made muesli bar – try my Banana oat power bars (recipe below)
- Handful of trail mix (dates, apricots, dried coconut, nuts and seeds)
Recovery Mode – Post Workout
Aim to eat within 30-45 minutes post workout
Key food group: Protein
The body is in recovery mode post workout so pay particular attention here. We need to refuel the tank and prevent muscle tissue breakdown. Protein is critical for muscle repair and recovery coupled with some complex carbs to restore glycogen levels, which the body has used for energy. Eating well post-work also prevents dips in energy during the day and controls insatiable appetite. In fact, if exercising in the AM and find you have ravenous hunger all day long, it may point to poor refueling.
- Smoothie using coconut water, banana and protein powder OR milk, yoghurt, oats and fruit
- 1-2 slices toast/wholegrain crackers with cottage cheese, sliced leg ham, tomato and avocado
- Slice of roasted vegetable and feta frittata
- 1-2 slices sourdough with ricotta cheese and sliced pear
On the go:
- 1 x small can chickpeas and 1-2 boiled eggs or piece of cheese
- Overnight oats combining oats, yoghurt/milk, mashed banana and chia seeds
- Handful of raw nuts and 1 piece of fruit
- Left-over patties e.g. sweet potato and feta or chicken and rice
- 1-2 boiled eggs and a piece of fruit
- Left-over small brown rice salad with beans and feta cheese
Gentle Movement – relaxation yoga and tai chi
Whilst gentle movement is performed at a low impact, it’s still important to give your body some fuel to work with. After all, if relaxation is the focus you don’t want to be overcome with low blood sugar and intense hunger mid practice. Be mindful of what suits you and sets you up for the best experience during the class. Similar principles to the above apply here. Some healthy options include yoghurt with berries, a handful of nuts, 1-2 boiled eggs and 1/4 avocado on brown rice cakes.
Seeking an Added Boost
If your pre and post work out nutrition hits a home run, here are a few tips and tricks for an added boost to performance and recovery.
Intense exercise increases the amount of oxygen moving into the muscles. Exposure to large volumes of oxygen may increase the generation of free radicals, which are involved in fatigue and muscle cell damage. There is conflicting research as to whether supplemented antioxidants can improve performance and recovery. However, if exercising frequently, an adequate supply of dietary antioxidants may be a beneficial dietary addition for overall health. My top pick of antioxidants here are: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Selenium.
Diet: capsicum, citrus fruit, cauliflower, kiwi fruit, papaya and tomato
Tip: add 1 tsp vitamin C powder to water or smoothies or add roasted capsicum to a post-work out frittata/salad.
Diet: almonds, egg yolk, sunflowers and wheat germ
Tip: add ½ tbsp. wheat germ to smoothies or overnight oats or simply snack on a handful of sunflower seeds.
Diet: brazil nuts, eggs, wholegrain and barley
Tip: replenish the body with a barley and roast vegetable salad or snack on brazil nuts.
Magnesium is important for muscle contraction and relaxation making it the perfect training companion. Those who suffer from muscle fatigue and cramps may benefit from increasing their magnesium supply.
Diet: almonds, eggs, cocoa, seeds, cashews, wholegrains
Tip: Add 1 tbsp pure cocoa powder to post-recovery smoothies or snack on 1-2 boiled eggs.
We all know hydration is critical full stop. But paying special attention to fluid intake before and after exercise is especially important. If water alone does little to please, try making your own batch of vitamin water. Vitamin water helps aid rehydration whilst supplying a source of anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins. Simply toss sliced fruit of choice into water and let mingle. Some mouth-watering combinations include pineapple and mint or strawberries with lime.