Gearing up for a bike ride or heading to the gym? Top up your tank with the right foods for better performance – and a better body. Try these pre and post workout snacks.
Food consumed before exercise is only useful once it has been digested and absorbed. This means you need to time it right for the food to be broken down and available during your workout. While there’s no hard and fast rule, eating a meal roughly 3-4 hours before or a lighter snack roughly 1-2 hours before exercise is a sufficient amount of time thought to have a positive effect on training, boost energy levels and prevent hunger and fatigue.
If your goal is fat loss, you may be tempted to train on an empty stomach, however this can result in low blood sugar levels, which makes it less likely that you will be able to power through an intense training session. What’s worse, training on an empty stomach can actually cause muscle loss. Why? Low blood sugar levels will force the body to burn body fat, as well as protein from muscle. When this happens, you lose muscle mass, which can ultimately slow your metabolism and make it harder for you to lose weight. It’s important to experiment to find the right timing and amount of food that best suits your individual needs.
Despite the popularity of low-carb, banting or paleo diets, which have created hysteria around grains, pasta and potatoes, carbs are your gym BFF. The key is to choose wholesome, low GI carbs, with a small amount of protein to ensure a slow, gradual release of energy. Fatty foods and food rich in protein tend to take longer to digest than other foods. Likewise with large portions, which also tend to cause tummy upset Try these: 3-4 hours before exercise
Baked beans on toast
Roll made with lean ham, chicken or fish and salad, plus a banana
Pasta with a sauce based on low-fat ingredients (e.g. tomato, vegetables, lean meat, legumes).
Baked potato with reduced-fat cheese
Toasted sandwich made with reduced-fat cheese and tomato, plus a 200g tub natural yoghurt
1-2 hours before exercise
Small piece of fruit
200g natural yoghurt
Glass low-fat milk
Bowl of wholegrain cereal/muesli and skim milk
After you’ve cranked out that last rep, your body is ready to replace depleted fuel, repair muscles and rehydrate. Eating (or drinking) something that combines equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates ideally with 30- 60 minutes post- workout is your best bet. The carbohydrates replenish muscle glycogen and also increase insulin levels and that actually helps the muscles take in the protein (amino acids) they need to build new muscle.
Fruit smoothie made with yoghurt
Wholegrain bread with lean protein, such as eggs, fish and salad
Stir-fry with lean meat and vegetables.
On-the go options include a milk-based drink with a fruit or cereal bar, wholegrain crackers with hummus or cheese.
Good old H2O is critical for rehydrating, however the benefits of consuming a sports drink depend on the duration and intensity of the exercise. For example, when exercising at high intensities or long durations (greater than 90 minutes) a sports drink is effective as it contains electrolytes (e.g. sodium) which will enhance absorption of fluid compared to drinking water alone.
There’s also increasing interest in the use of flavoured milk as a rehydration drink post workout. Milk naturally contains water, carbohydrate, electrolytes and high-quality protein – a precise combination which helps the body’s fluid balance after exercise and help to build and repair muscles post workout. What’s more, the calcium in milk is not just for strong bones and teeth, it also plays a key role in muscle contraction and nerve function.