I often get asked about how to eat around exercise. This is highly personal so in this blog, I am going to give you a few things to think about so you can work out the best strategy for you.
Now, the type of training does matter, to a degree. To keep things simple, I’ll use the example of a typical 60-minute boot camp session.
I’ll introduce the term ‘athlete’ below. This is to encourage you to think a little differently. You’re dedicating an hour to improving your fitness, doesn’t it make sense to get as much out of that time as possible? Eat to perform (and recover) at your best and your body will thank you 😊
To get the most out of your session you will need to work at a high intensity and the main job of carbohydrate within your body is to provide this energy.
90-120 minutes before training, your meal or snack should consist of a good source of complex carbohydrates that sits easily on the stomach. This will provide enough glucose to perform at your best without making you ‘too full’. Eating a carb source with too much fibre can lead to undigested food remaining in your system, which is far from ideal! A relatively light, yet energy-dense meal, such as a bowl of rice or a pasta dish with white meat or fish would be perfect.
Note: Complex carbs include potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates. There is a full definition here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-labelling-terms/
If you would rather eat closer to training and can’t face a high volume of food?
You could also opt for a simpler carb source as these, digest quickly:
· a protein shake and a piece of fruit
· a high protein yogurt (skyr/low fat Greek yoghurt) and some low fibre cereal (Rice Krispies)
· a protein bar
Note: with the exception of the high protein yoghurts, it might be wise to minimise these at other times as they won’t keep you full for as long (important when overall calories are low)
This is highly individual though so play around and see what works best for you personally. Try different meals or snacks and note how you feel during and after the session, adjusting things with that feedback.
If you can’t stomach anything at all then, so long as you are eating a well-balanced diet, you will have stored glucose in your body from your last meal. However, if you are looking to optimise performance it might be worth considering at least a banana or even some fruit juice just before training. Personally, as I train first thing in the morning, I grab a banana and a protein shake before hitting the gym and find that gives me a little top-up of protein and a bit of instant energy to help me push hard for the whole session.
At other times of the day, each meal should focus on a good quality protein source with, again, a suitable proportion of complex carbohydrates for your goal. However, now we should also be conscious of fibre and micronutrients within the meal. Though we might think of protein and rice or oats as the typical diet of an athlete, eating plenty of colourful plant-based nutrition is vital for health and performance.
Without micronutrients, an athlete cannot be healthy, and if you are wanting to avoid missing sessions due to sickness, you need to get the veggies in! Consuming an adequate amount of fibre will also help you to digest and process your food much more effectively.
Finally, staying properly hydrated (see my previous post) should be a priority for anyone, let alone those wanting to perform optimally in physical activity.
Now you have a few different options you can decide for yourself what to eat around your training.
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