Pre-workout foods

Hitting the gym? Heading out for a run? Hanging out for some waves?

Wait! What have you eaten?

Eating before and after a workout can make all the difference between gaining and losing. And we’re not just talking weight!

Eating before and after a workout can make all the difference between gaining and losing. And we’re not just talking weight! Like any engine, your body needs fuel to perform at its best. Your car won’t go anywhere on an empty tank, and nor will your body. And like a car, you can’t just dump anything in and expect to last the distance!

Fuelling Up: The Pre-Workout Snack (1-2 hours before)

Working out requires strength and energy. And if that’s not in the food you eat beforehand, your body will rob it from your muscles. What a waste!
A good pre-workout snack is one that contains BOTH carbs and protein

Carbs: No, they’re not bad for you. Working out depletes your body’s stores of glycogen, the main source of energy to your muscles. Carbs provide glycogen in the form of glucose. Without glycogen, muscles will tire quickly. Choose healthy simple carbs which are broken down quickly such as fruits or starchy vegetables such as potatoes or rice.

Protein: Protein is made up of amino acids, the ‘building blocks’ of our muscle tissue. The body calls on these amino acids to repair and re-build the muscles you’re using during a workout. Go for small servings of clean protein: lean meats, nuts, protein powder.

Fast Fuel-Ups:

  • Banana rolled in honey and chopped nuts
  • Chia seeds soaked in low-fat natural yoghurt or almond milk
  • Gluten-free toast with almond butter
  • Low-fat natural yoghurt and frozen fruit
  • Smoothie with whey or pea protein and fresh fruit

Tip: AVOID foods that contain milk or are high in fat or fibre: these take longer to digest, and some people can’t digest milk properly at all. You don’t want that chocolate milkshake sloshing about in your stomach as you’re pounding pavement or lifting weights!

Rest and Repair: The Post-Workout Meal

Time to replenish! The body has been depleted of the valuable nutrients it needs for muscle repair and recovery. A good post-workout meal should contain carbs, protein and healthy fats.

Carbs: Yes, you do need them! That workout will have drained your body’s glycogen stores. Without replenishment, your muscles will be cheated of the energy they need to repair and recover. Body building experts agree that delaying those carbs by just a couple of hours can reduce your rate of glycogen replenishment by up to fifty percent! Top up with complex carbohydrates which are digested slowly, allowing blood sugar levels to stay in balance.

Protein: Working out breaks down muscle tissue. You’re looking to gain muscle – not lose it – so now’s the most important time to put some of those amino acids back in. Nutritionists recommend around 0.3–0.5g of protein per kg of bodyweight just after a workout. Choose lean protein such as grilled meat, tofu, nuts or whip up a smoothie with protein powder.

Healthy Fats: No, fat isn’t a bad thing! Every one of the body’s 100 trillion+ cells needs high-quality fat to function. Healthy fats keep joints in working order, the skin supple and the brain in top gear – all things you should want! Go for foods rich in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats such as avocado, salmon, nuts, olive oil and eggs.

Rich Replenishment:

  • Omelette (two whole eggs and three whites) with tomatoes and green salad
  • Grilled chicken with avocado
  • Quinoa with vegetables
  • Wholegrain bread with hummus and carrot sticks
  • Stir-fried tofu with vegetables
By Katie Stone
Katie is a qualified naturopath and journalist with a passion for fitness and nutrition. She's also a running addict and currently has five marathons and one ultra-marathon under her belt! Katie spent many years figuring out how to balance diet with exercise (it can be tricky!) and now gets a kick out of sharing her knowledge with others.