Making sure your body receives the proper nourishment pre- and post-exercise can be an important step in getting the most out of your workout. It can help to sustain your energy, reduce physical and mental fatigue, and can aid optimal recovery.
Like everything when it comes to health and wellness, different bodies have different needs and it’s important to listen to your body to determine what feels and works best for you.
Carbohydrates with a low Glycaemic Index (GI) such as wholegrains, vegetables and legumes provide a slow and steady release of energy. These are best enjoyed around 2-3 hours before exercising.
Carbohydrates with a higher GI, like some fruits, boost your energy levels more immediately, and the addition of a small serving of protein could enhance your staying power.
For light workouts, or if you’re exercising within half an hour of eating, fruit such as berries or a banana is an ideal energy snack. A hard-boiled egg or a spoonful of tahini will also keep hunger at bay, without leaving you feeling too heavy or creating digestive discomfort as you bend through a yoga class.
"A green smoothie is an excellent option for both before and after exercise, as it’s easy to digest and packed full of vitamins and minerals."
Here are a few other ideas:
- Green tea If you prefer an empty stomach before a workout but need a little energy boost, a cup of antioxidant-rich matcha green tea 30 minutes to an hour before may give you the lift you need without overstimulating.
- Green smoothie A green smoothie is an excellent option for both before and after exercise, as it’s easy to digest and packed full of vitamins and minerals including iron, potassium and magnesium. Mix together spinach, kale, berries, unsweetened almond milk, flaxseeds, chia and/or hemp seeds for added protein, iron and essential fatty acids.
- Quinoa porridge Quinoa flakes cooked in water or milk make a nutritious porridge, providing the perfect pre- and post-workout combination of carbohydrates and protein. Being a seed, quinoa may be easier to digest than oats, and it is wheat and gluten free, so it’s ideal for those with intolerances.
Adding cinnamon, coconut flakes, berries, kiwi, hemp or chia seeds will boost protein and essential fatty acids, magnesium, iron and B vitamins for sustained energy. A scoop of protein powder or a dollop of natural Greek yoghurt can also be a great addition.
"If it’s a full meal you’re craving, a warm salad with protein is perfect for a post-workout lunch."
The goal is to repair your muscles, replenish fluid and electrolyte levels and restore glycogen stores (if they have been depleted during your workout). Following a workout, your body is extra efficient at using carbohydrates to restore glycogen, and can exhibit an increased rate of protein synthesis for muscle building.
That means again, combining good quality carbohydrates and protein is ideal. Convenient options include a smoothie, or a bowl of natural Greek or coconut yoghurt with nuts and seeds, plus additions such as acai berries, raw cacoa powder or fruit.
If it’s a full meal you’re craving, a warm salad with protein is perfect for a post-workout lunch. Try roasted veggies such as cauliflower and sweet potato for carbohydrates, lentils for fibre, iron and B vitamins and a sprinkling of pomegranates for added vitamin C.
Grilled salmon is a great protein addition as it’s high in anti-inflammatory omega 3s, which are important for supporting a healthy cardiovascular system.