Dietitian Pascoe Vale Melbourne

What to eat before and after a workout

Physical activity is important for so many different reasons.

It can help lower your risk of chronic diseases, improve mental health and aid in weight management.

Your nutrition and diet in conjunction with your exercise is important too.

We’re often warned not to ‘undo all our good work’ by making poor food choices when exercising. But equally as important, you should not deprive yourself, or you will have a poor quality workout and increase your risk of injury and exhaustion.

Consider your energy goals

When choosing appropriate pre- and post-workout meals and snacks, it’s important to consider your energy goals.

To lose weight, your energy targets will be smaller, so select foods and portions that pack only just enough of the right nutrients to fuel your exercise and recovery.

If you’re looking to add muscle mass, you will have higher energy targets, and may opt for larger pre- and post-workout meals.

What should be in your food pre-workout

Your pre-workout meals should be centered on low GI carbohydrates, which provide a constant and stable stream of energy for periods over an hour. The best meals will also contain:

  • Electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, which assist in nerve and muscle function
  • B vitamins, which assist in energy metabolism
  • Proteins, to protect and repair the working muscle.

It is recommended to limit fats pre-work out, as they delay the digestion and availability of carbohydrates and protein.

Good meal options

Some good options include:

  • Oats with low fat milk and berries(for higher energy targets, add banana and a drizzle of honey)
  • Fresh or frozen fruits with low-fat natural yoghurt (for higher energy targets, add ½ cup of natural muesli)
  • Green smoothie with 1 piece of fruit, a variety of vegetables and your choice of milk (for higher energy targets, add an additional fruit and ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1-2 slices of grain toast with low fat cottage cheese, sliced cucumber and tomato (for higher energy targets, add an additional slice of toast or a glass of Milo).

What should be in your food post-workout

While pre-workout meals are all about low GI carbs, the ideal post-workout meals will focus equally on high quality proteins.

This includes all essential amino acids, mostly sourced from animal products including eggs and dairy.

For vegans, soybeans and their products are a reasonable alternative.

Proteins are most important after a workout, and studies show that the ideal target is 20g for both men and women. This can easily be reached without splashing out on expensive protein powders.

Include low GI carbs as well, otherwise the protein in your meal will be used instead to replenish your energy stores.

Good meal options

The following examples contain at least 20g of high quality protein, low GI carbohydrate, and electrolytes:

  • 2 poached eggs on 2 slices of grain toast and roasted tomato
  • 1 small tin of tuna and 20g of low fat cheese in a wholegrain wrap with salad
  • 100-150g of lean chicken breast or fillet steak with 1 cup of mashed sweet potato and greens
  • Vegan curry of 100g of firm tofu with ½ cup of chickpeas, ½ cup basmati rice and mixed vegetables.

For higher energy targets, increase your portion size of protein and low GI carbohydrate.

Need help?

We understand that eating the right food and managing your diet can be difficult. That’s why we have an in-house dietitian who can help.

Enjoy your workout!

Further reading

 

Note: This information is of a general nature only and should not be substituted for medical advice. It does not replace consultations with qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual medical needs.