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WHAT TO EAT BEFORE + AFTER EXERCISE

When I was working as a personal trainer, not a week went by when I used to see people virtually collapsing on the floor half way during their workout and not being able to complete their full session, due to not fuelling their body correctly and running out of puff.  Whether you are exercising just for general health, fat loss or an athlete in competition, the nutritional strategy you put in place before and after training can enhance performance and reduce fatigue and dehydration as well as promote optimal recovery afterwards.

In order to train properly and recover quickly you need to look at your chosen activity, how long it lasts, time of day and the nutritional strategy to assist in energy supply and recovery. What you eat and drink before your workout, allows the body to train in the best possible condition. Your meals should normally be a mix of carbohydrate for energy and protein to repair the body. The best carbs come from fresh fruit and vegetables and they have the added benefit of being rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that can help boost health and wellbeing. For good protein sources check out my protein calculator.

Fuel your workout
If you’re exercising, the rule of thumb is begin your workout well nourished, but with your stomach virtually empty.  This basically means that based on your pre exercise nutrition, your body should be well hydrated and have enough glycogen to enter your session in the best physical condition.  Glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen.  When we exercise the liver breaks down its glycogen and releases the glucose into the bloodstream for energy. The muscles use this glucose as well as their own glycogen that is stored in the muscle to fuel their work. When glycogen is depleted we become fatigued. How much carbohydrate we eat will influence how much glycogen is stored and the amount we need depends on our activity level and exercise time. If we are trying to lose fat, we need to consider not only the amount of good carbohydrates we eat, but also the time of day we eat them.

For many of us ( unless you’re running marathons on playing professional sport), we should often have enough glycogen in our system from the day before to get us through our session.  A piece of low GI fruit like kiwi or berries or a small protein drink made with water 30 minutes prior can also stabilise energy levels if you need it and get you powering through your 60 minutes session. Studies also  show that drinking coffee or green tea 30 minutes to an hour before your workout results in longer endurance, faster times, less exertion, less fatigue, and more rapid recovery — up to 30 percent better in each category  Caffeine also, breaks down fat, freeing fatty acids which are immediately burned.

If your exercise bouts are longer then make sure to take along carb/electrolyte replacements to get you through. Some ideas could be coconut water, banana, passionfruit or orange juice that are rich in minerals such as potassium and magnesium to help regulate fluid balance and for muscle contraction.

Hydrate Well
Begin your workout well hydrated 500 ml of water consumed 15 – 30  minutes before training is ideal, then frequent sips during your workout session. Make sure to hydrate properly after your workout to counteract dehydration. Exercise sessions over 1 hour may need additional electrolytes during and after the session to help with recovery. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends you replace 1.5 litres of fluid for each kilogram of body weight lost.

Repair and Recover
Your body needs protein for repair, quality carbs to replenish glycogen (choose foods rich in magnesium and potassium that are necessary for nerve and muscle contraction). Consumption of small protein rich meals 10 – 25g of protein at each time throughout the day after your training session is the best for protein synthesis.  Good protein sources are fish, beans, yoghurt, grass-fed and game meats, eggs, nuts, seeds and protein sups.. Good carb sources are fresh fruit and vegetables including banana, oranges, papaya, kiwi fruit, pumpkin, spinach, sea vegetables, green beans and sweet potato that are good food sources of potassium and magnesium.

Prevent Workout Burnout
Remember to listen to your body and find your balance. Alternate the intensity of your training, so you’re not training like a crazy obsessed person every single day, otherwise you’ll soon burn out, get sick and give up.  Over-exercising and hard dieting have both physiological and psychological outcomes. Your immune system will suffer and you will get sick easily. You’ll be tired most of the time, and you won’t be able to sleep properly, eat properly or train properly.

Common symptoms of burnout are: elevated morning heart rate - chronic fatigue - an increase in normal body temperature - a greater susceptibility to colds - difficulty sleeping - increased anxiety - joint and muscle injuries.

Enjoy the journey that exercising and healthy eating will take you on. Learn to take days off to relax and recharge, and enjoy the experience! It’s the only way you’ll be able to maintain a healthy, balanced exercise routine for the rest of your life.

RECOVERY FUEL:
Recovery Smoothie
Energy Smoothie
Superfood Berry Smoothie
Protein Power Balls
Blueberry + Banana Pancakes
Bircher Muesli
Power Porridge
Banana Bread
Pumpkin Fruit Cake
Home Made Muesli Bars
Sports Recovery Smoothies

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10 Responses to “WHAT TO EAT BEFORE + AFTER EXERCISE”
  1. Jennifer says:

    Dear Teresa,

    I have noticed a lot of your smoothie recipes contain some form of citrus. As someone with an issue with citrus allergy could you suggest an alternative ingredient?

  2. katie says:

    Hi Teresa,

    Thanks so much for all your insightful information and absolutely amazing recipes! I can’t get enough if your website and am constantly forwarding on your recipes which I have subscribed to!
    My Aunty initially suggested looking you up as she has celiac disease and loves your reicopes!
    The more I talk about food with people; the more exciting it becomes as your name constantly comes up in conversation
    My partner loves your banana and pumpkin loaves!!

    Thanks again for sharing your recipes; love your articles! Please keep them coming!

    Regards,

    Katie

  3. jubilation says:

    I have always exercised for 30mins, 4-5 times a week, but since buying your 20/80 book, I’ve cleaned up my eating, and have up’ed the exercise to 45min-1hr 5-6 times a week, with varied types of exercise (I used to just run, but now I have incorporated light weights, and yoga too) – for the record, 12kg down, but the best bit, I feel AMAZING!, healthy, well and fit, and have lots of comments from friends and clients that confirm this too.
    Thank you for this ‘what to eat regarding exercise info’, as some days I feel flat, some I’m fine, but I will try some of these options prior to every run I do, as I am now training for the 15km Run For The Kids Melbourne at the end of March! Onwards and upwards for me!

    • 12 kg – that’s awesome ! don’t forget you’re not a machine and it’s good to take a little time out every now and then. If you feel really flat – train light, go for a light walk or have a rest day. Keep in touch and let me know how you go in the March run Tx :)

  4. Anita says:

    Hi Teresa, I love this post! In regards to post workout nutrition- is it better to eat a low fat natural yoghurt or a full fat one? :)

    • Personally – I like full-fat natural yogurt. A few spoonfuls keeps me totally satiated and I sometimes love to mix it with a little honey or stir in a spoonful of healthy chef protein. Haven’t found a low fat version that satisfies – I love the creaminess of the real stuff T:)

      • Anita says:

        Thanks for the reply. Yes i totally agree with the low fat not being satisfying (thought it was just me!) today i bought a vaalia low fat natural yoghurt which is rather satisfying but i think ill just stick to my favs- i love the jalna biodynamic natutal yoghurt and the barambah one (full fat) :)
        will try adding in some of the healthy chef protein powder next time! x

        Anita

  5. Fiona Devereux says:

    Hi Teresa, I like to work out at 5.30am so that I can get it she before my kids wake up. Afternoon and evening workouts are hard with dinner, bath and bed times and then I just want to relax and have dinner with my husband before getting an early night to do it all over again!

    After nearly making my goal weight, I found I was struggling with fatigue and wasn’t losing those last few kilos. Reading this article makes me think that maybe I was burning muscle instead of fat during these workouts, maybe? I have started having half a banana beforehand but I don’t get up with enough time to drink much water before I workout and if I drink too much too close, I get a stitch and have to pee half way through as well! Not sure how I can keep going with my early morning workouts and get the most out of them? Maybe a coffee is the answer based on your article!

    Love reading your stuff,
    Fiona

    • Diane says:

      I know it’s been a while since this post, but I would love to have an answer to that question as I am struggling too. What can you do if you want to exercise early morning, upon rising? Is is always best to have a green tea or coffee and wait 30 mins, is it ok to exercise with an empty stomach, or if you don’t have the energy to work out straight away what is the ideal “early-morning-pre-workout-snack” :)
      Just found this website and loving it :)
      Thank you
      Diane

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