Eat to maximise your workout

Author: Female For Life | 15 Jul 2013

Any naturopath / dietician / personal trainer / doctor will tell you that whilst keeping fit with lean and trim your muscles and body, eating the right diet will not only make this easier, but is essential to give your body what it needs to replenish itself. So whether you are trying to gain weight / lose weight / tone up, eating the correct foods before and after your workout is essential.

What to eat if you exercise first thing in the morningEarly morning exercise


Many health professionals will say its best to not exercise on a completely empty stomach. However, I believe this is a personal choice. If you are a morning person like myself who wakes up with heaps of energy, you don’t need the fuel to get you going. However if you do feel a bit flat in the mornings, the best option is to go with low GI foods for sustained energy release so you can keep going throughout your workout.

If you are planning to have a cardio (this includes running, swimming, team sports, cycling and other exercises where you breathe heavily) session:

Go for low GI foods include grainy fibres, cereals, some fruits, dairy and yoghurts. GI foods may vary from country to country, but low GI foods are usually promoted on packaging so it shouldn’t be too hard to find something. Some suggestions I have received over the years are a piece of toast with peanut butter/banana with cinnamon and cottage cheese with almonds and berries.

If you are planning a weight training (this includes body pump classes, free weight training etc) session:

You are still going for the low GI foods as for your cardio session, but you also want to add in some lean protein. The easiest is the white of an egg. So if you don’t have time to fry something up, just try boil some eggs every few days and keep them in the fridge for a quick reach. Eat it with a piece of whole grain toast with perhaps some spinach or tomatoes for flavour. Another option is a protein powder smoothie with berries and chia seeds.

In general:

It is also extremely important to drink at least 500ml of water (2 glasses) before you exercise. Try drinking your first glass as soon as you wake up (this is good practice regardless and should be done daily) and slowly sip your second whilst getting ready.
Another tip for those of us who love the caffeine and aren’t good in the morning. A cup of black coffee can give you that extra burst of energy to get you up and going and smash your workout!

If you are exercising during the day / at night

Ensure that you haven’t had a big meal within 2 hours of exercise, ensure you are hydrated and if you need a caffeine boost, go for it.

What to eat after you exercise

It is important to remember that when you sweat a lot you need to replenish some of the minerals you have lost. Ensure that you research all the kinds of minerals that you use up when exercising and preferably build them into your meals throughout the day.

Losing weight is about choicesAfter a cardio session

After you workout, there is a window of approximately 20-60 minutes in which your muscles will readily accept the carbohydrates and protein that you consume and store them away as precious energy and building blocks for recovery. (Note: this applies to all exercise, no matter what time of the day). So you don’t need to completely avoid carbs (unless of course you are trying to lose weight). Once again go for low GI foods like brown rice with lots of (green) veggies and lean proteins.

If you had a weights session

The same rules apply as with a cardio session except preferably increase the proportion of lean proteins and decrease the number of carbohydrates. A good meal would be steamed salmon and veggies

In general

Remember, your body will need some time to warm down after exercise so don’t exercise too close to bedtime else you won’t have a good nights sleep. And as always drink lots of water and throughout the night, waking up dehydrated can make you tired and lethargic!

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