Sports dietitian: How to get fitter and stronger by eating these foods before and after your workout

The Sports Dietitian Co 's Gabby Ward, who also works as a MACROS food specialist

The Sports Dietitian Co ‘s Gabby Ward, who also works as a MACROS food specialist

An Australian sports dietitian has revealed what she recommends clients eat to nourish their bodies before and after a workout.

The Sports Dietitian Co‘s Gabby Ward, who also works as a MACROS food specialist, told FEMAIL that nutrition is the card up your sleeve when it comes to supercharging your exercise regime.  

Regardless of your goals, the majority of your daily nutrition on a training day should be sandwiching training sessions, the professional from Brisbane recommends.

‘When it comes to pre-training nutrition recommendations, the window until your session really matters. If you have between 2-5 hours, you can have a pre-training meal, and potentially even a snack,’ Gabby said.

‘If you have 15-60 minutes pre workout, that’s where we can fit in a pre-training snack only.’

Why is it important to eat before you train? 

Training nutrition gives you energy for the work, decreases stress on the body, supports immunity, allows you to get better adaptations, and preserves muscle mass from being the fuel for the workout, by providing it with its desired fuel, that being carbs.

Any training sessions of moderate to high intensity (whether that is relative to the cardio intensity and or weights), carbohydrates will be your most efficient and preferred source of energy. The amount of carbs would be relative to your daily requirements, and the duration and intensity of your intended workout. A guide for portioning your meals based on the intensity is:

– ¼ plate carbs, ¼ plate protein and remaining plants with a small amount of fats for a lower intensity or more skill based session.

– 1/3 plate carbs, ¼ plate protein and remaining plants with a small amount of fats for a moderate intensity 45-60 minute session

– ½ plate carbs, ¼ plate protein and remaining plants with a small amount of fats for a moderate to high intensity session >90 minutes, or training multiple sessions per day

For a larger meal Gabby typically aims for a lean protein like chicken breast, prawns, extra lean mince, with the exception of salmon which is high in fats.

‘The closer we are having a meal to training, the more important it is needed to be quite lean,’ she said.

‘This is because fats slow down how fast food moves through our gastrointestinal tract, meaning we don’t want to feel like we are still digesting our food come time to training.’ 

So five hours before a training session you might opt for a burrito bowl with brown rice (carb), chicken (protein), ¼ avo (fat) and two handfuls of desired veg. 

A burrito bowl

Greek yoghurt

Sometimes eating a burrito bowl might be feasible some hours before you train, but if you’re short on time opt for some yoghurt or a fruit-free muesli bar

But if you are then etching closer to three hours, it might be white rice, chicken breast and one handful of veg or salad. 

If you don’t have that sort of time under your belt it’s best to opt for a snack instead.  

‘We ideally want this to be small food volume, quick digesting carbs that are low in protein, fat and fibre to ensure this is digested quickly and by the time we start exercising we are primed with a top up of our fuel,’ Gabby said.

‘Examples of this could be a banana, some dried fruit, toast with honey or jam, ‘breakfast biscuits’, juice, or a (nut/seed) free muesli bar.

‘We wouldn’t typically have these foods often by themselves throughout the day as they are so quick digesting it wouldn’t satiate us, however close to training they are the perfect top up to get you through your workout, especially towards the back end.’

Gabby's delicious gnocci bake which could be eaten as a meal after your workout

Gabby’s delicious gnocci bake which could be eaten as a meal after your workout

Should you eat during a workout? 

Intra-training really only needs to be considered for people exercising for more than 90 minutes at a moderate to high intensity, and if this is the case, would be similar foods explained in the pre-training nutrition section – looking to implementing this per hour of training. 

The other factor to consider would be portability and convenience – so something like some toast while exercising isn’t feasible but some dried fruit, sports drink, energy gels or lollies would be. 

When it comes to intra-training, your carbs and hydration is still first and foremost. Something like BCAA isn’t going to give you the energy you need to push through and get the most out of your session, and isn’t required when you are nailing the rest of your nutrition throughout the day.

Post-training nutrition can be a lot simpler than it is made out to be, and how aggressive the approach is, depends on your personal training schedule. 

‘Ideally, we get a meal or snack in within the first 1-2 hours post training to kick start the recovery process but depending on how far away your next training session is, would guide how much you may need,’ she said.

‘The closer your next training session, the more we would need to get in sooner, as your opportunity to refuel would be maybe eight hours, but if you train the next day, it may be 24 hours, and so on. 

‘Typically, our “recovery window” is 24-48 hours, compared to the 1-2 hours people may tout. There is merit to this, but getting something in within this window is because our body is more efficient at absorbing that food to refuel then, but this still continues over the following hours and days.’ 

If you are one of those people who lead a very busy lifestyle throughout the week, Gabby’s recommendation is to always plan ahead. 

Have healthy meals and snacks prepped to grab and go as needed, so when the hunger strikes you can still hold yourself accountable to those wellness goals.  

‘Beyond this, we want to make sure we eat regular meals and snacks every 2-5 hours with a balance of some protein, carbs and fats, that we include high quality food, and high fibre food away from the start our training session, stay hydrated, and get adequate rest,’ she said.

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