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22 Jun

Eating Before and After Exercise

Fuelling our bodies properly ensures we can move to our fullest and is a vital part of the health journey. Liam Plumridge, a dietitian, from Fuel Your Life has provided us some great information on eating and exercise. To find out more information and support on healthy eating, we have provided Liam’s details at the end of this post.

What you eat before and after exercise will depend on several factors:

  • The type of exercise (e.g. a walk vs weights session)
  • The duration of exercise (e.g. 30 mins vs 60 mins)
  • The intensity of exercise (e.g. a yoga session vs interval training

For those looking to lose weight, there is a fine balance between fuelling and recovering adequately and over-fuelling for the particular exercise session.

WHAT SHOULD I EAT BEFORE EXERCISE?

Eating the right type and amount of food prior to an exercise session can help to give you enough energy to get the most out of the session. Depending on the type of exercise, carbohydrates are our body’s referred fuel source.

Top up with a carbohydrate-based snack 30-60 minutes before an exercise session if:

  • You have not consumed a meal or snack containing carbohydrates within the last 2 hours; and
  • The exercise session will last more than 1-2 hours; or
  • The exercise session is under 1-2 hours in duration but is very intense

You DO NOT need to top up with a carbohydrate snack if your last meal contained carbohydrates and was consumed within the last 2 hours, the exercise session will be shorter in duration than an hour and won’t be
very intense.

Good examples of carbohydrate snacks to consume 30-60 minutes before exercise include the following:

  • A serving of fruit (e.g. a banana or ¾ cup grapes) or dried fruit e.g. 40g sultanas
  • A slice of toast or 2 rice cakes sandwiched together with vegemite, thin spread of peanut butter or jam
  • A muesli bar (avoid chocolate or yoghurt coated ones and nut bars as they are too high in fat and may not sit well in your gut)

WHAT SHOULD I EAT AFTER EXERCISE?

Eating well after exercise sessions helps to refuel the body and promote muscle repair. Recommendations for recovery nutrition depend on the type, duration and intensity of the exercise, as well as body
composition goals.

The three most important aspects in recovery include:

  1. Carbohydrates (to replenish muscle fuel stores).
    The amount you need will vary according to your body mass as well as the duration and intensity of the exercise session.
  2. Protein (to promote muscle remain).
    Protein powders can be used and are beneficial to some individuals, but for many, recovery nutrition can be achieved using regular foods.
  3. Fluids (to assist with rehydration).
    9 times out of 10, water is the best choice. Be aware that sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade also contain a heavy amount of carbohydrate/sugar and are not needed unless you are doing very long duration training sessions (i.e. over 2 hours straight) or on competition days.

The body is most effective at replacing carbohydrate and promoting muscle repair and growth within the first 60-90 minutes following exercise, so aiming to consume your recovery meal/snack within this time frame will help to optimise outcomes, particularly if you are exercising again soon (e.g. an evening workout followed by an early morning workout the next day).

Overcompensation of foods to exercise can promote weight gain, so it is important to consult your dietitian for specific targets. If you are actively trying to lose weight, try and schedule your exercise sessions directly before meals so that you don’t need to add extra snacks to meet recovery needs (e.g. exercising immediately before breakfast or dinner will mean that your recovery meal is breakfast or dinner, as opposed to exercising at 2pm when dinner won’t be until 7pm).

Below are some breakfast, dinner and snack ideas to help meet carbohydrate and protein needs after exercise. Speak with your dietitian regarding quantities specific to your individual needs.

Breakfast choices:
  • Omelet with toast
  • Muesli with Greek yoghurt and fruit
  • Fruit smoothie made on milk
Dinner choices:
  • Spaghetti bolognaise made with lean beef mince
  • Steak, potato and veggies
  • Chicken stir-fry on rice
Snack choices:
  • Milk-based coffee or Up n Go popper with a piece of fruit
  • Greek yoghurt and a banana
  • Small tin of tuna on crackers

To find out more how a dietitian can help with your health journey, contact Liam:

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