As a Sports Dietitian I’m often asked, “Should I eat before or after exercise?” This topic usually crops up with regard to breakfast. If you’re anything like me, then a belly full of food before a run isn’t going to be pretty… Yet, some people need a little fuel before they can even think about strapping on their joggers. I’ve put together some tips and advice to help you make the best choice for YOU and your training.
Avoid eating a large meal in the 2-hour window before a strenuous training session. After a meal blood flow is directed to the gut to manage digestion and delivery of nutrients, and away from the muscles involved in exercise. Exercising on a full stomach, or even a half-full stomach, will more than likely give you a stitch, leading to a painful and unrewarding training session.
If you haven’t eaten for a while a small snack an hour before is a good idea. If your planning on training less than an hour before after eating – stick to a small glass of diluted fruit juice, a handful of dried fruit or a piece of fresh fruit as a pick-me-up.
Good snacks/meals before exercise should contain low-GI carbohydrates for slow release energy and not too much fat or fibre – both of these nutrients will slow down stomach emptying. A large protein load will also slow down stomach emptying so avoid protein shakes and bars immediately before exercise. Examples of good pre-exercise meals/snacks are:
• Toast with a little peanut butter
• Fruit salad with a little yoghurt
• Banana on sourdough toast
• Porridge with low fat milk
• 2 Weet-Bix with low fat milk
• Low-fat pasta dish with a tomato-based sauce
For recovery and repair it is important to eat shortly after exercise. This meal/snack should include both protein and carbohydrate. The protein ensures the required amino acids are in the bloodstream ready for uptake into the muscles to strengthen and repair following your workout. The carbohydrate is required to replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles and liver, which fuels the exercise. Without adequate replenishment of these stores you will be unable to workout to the same intensity at the next session. Examples of good post-workout meals/snacks are:
• A sandwich with salad & protein-rich filling eg tuna, lean meat, ricotta or chicken
• An omelette with spinach, mushroom and tomato with a slice of wholegrain toast
• Brown rice with chicken/meat/fish & vegetables
• Pasta with chicken, bolognaise or seafood with veggies
• Quinoa with grilled meat/chicken or fish & veggies
• Eggs on toast
Happy training and healthy eating…
Lisa Donaldson APD
3/4 Kennedy St, Kingston