Fuelling your body with the right nutrients prior or post exercise will give you the energy and strength you need to perform better.
Simple dietary guidelines can optimise any exercise session, “what you eat before and after you workout is a balancing act of giving your body the right amount of fuel at the right time,” says Sandi van Zyl, registered dietitian at Virgin Active SA.
She recommends eating a light meal one or two hours before your workout. However, if you’re short of time, she recommends a snack just before.
“Choose something that is relatively low in fibre and fat, so that you don’t feel too full or bloated during your exercise session,” she says.
Juggling around your regular gym routine can be a challenge but If you’re able to whip up a quick meal, she suggests that you go for oats with half a cup of berries. This will give you a good dose of carbohydrates, needed to give your body enough energy to burn during the session.
If your routine does not give you enough time to prepare and you’re looking for a quick snack Van Zyl suggests you try a ¾ cup of full-fat Greek yoghurt with a spoon or two of granola and half a cup of berries. And for those mornings when you have a larger appetite, try adding a few raw nuts to the mix.
If you have enough time to make it, a freshly squeezed cup of juice might be a great pre and post workout snack. It offers both fluid and energy in the form of carbohydrates. Be careful to select the right ingredients to ensure sufficient carbohydrates - some good choices include fruit and/or carrots.
However, if you are not a morning person, then there is no need to fuss with assembling ingredients. You can grab a handful of raisins and a banana. It’s super simple and is packed with an energy punch.
To optimise your routine, you need to avoid foods containing too much fibre or fat before your workout - these might result in an digestive disturbances during your workout.
The most important thing about the food you need to avoid is to understand that different people react differently to different foods - what works well for one person might not work at all well for another.
“The trick is to experiment with different foods and find what works best for you. Avoid foods that are too bulky or high in fibre or fat, as they are likely to result in an uncomfortable gut during the exercise session,” says van Zyl.
For optimal recovery post-workout, you want to ideally try to eat or drink something within 30 to 45 minutes of completing your training session, she advises.
She emphasises that whatever you eat should contain carbohydrates to replenish the energy lost during your workout and protein for speedy muscle recovery.
If you’re unable to make a meal after your workout, a green smoothie is a good way to go. Add tofu, almond milk, and chia seeds to bulk it up. If you go for a protein shake, be aware of the extra calories. Unless you are looking to gain weight, you shouldn’t consume more than you’ve burned in your workout session.
As a recovery snack, add a bit of protein too in the form of lean biltong, low-fat dairy, a boiled egg or some raw nuts. As a rule, if you’re planning to eat a meal after your workout, you can skip the snack or shake as that could add unnecessary calories.
If you’re looking for a hearty meal after your session, go for lean protein, like fish or chicken, with some couscous or brown, wild rice and grilled vegetables.
“You’re unlikely to need more than 1 to 1.2g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight and 0.2 to 0.3g of protein per kilogram as a recovery meal.”
If you are looking for a healthy eating plan that works for you and your lifestyle, take into consideration family commitments, financial status, health status and personal goals.
More and more people are coming to the realisation that one size doesn’t fit all and to make something more sustainable, one needs to eat a variety of healthy foods in a way that is realistic, practical and well balanced.