Consuming the right nutrients before and after exercising is key, to make sure you’re properly fuelling your workouts, while also helping your body to replenish following a gruelling session.
“Bananas are a fantastic, healthy source of carbohydrate which contain sugar and starch, acting as fast fuel for the body, helping you to stay active for longer,” says Wiener. “These sugars break down into glycogen which fuels your muscles and boosts your energy levels.
“Bananas are also rich in potassium and magnesium. After a tough workout, when these mineral levels have dropped, it’s important to replenish them – and that’s when eating a banana can really help. Post-workout, your blood sugar levels will have also dipped, and these too can be boosted by eating a banana, or drinking a smoothie which includes this versatile ingredient.”
“Porridge is an ideal pre-workout meal, as oats contain complex carbohydrates and are also a great source of the soluble fibre beta glucan, which can improve cardiovascular health and keep cholesterol levels low,” explains Mahoney. “Consuming oats around two hours before exercising will also ensure that you satisfy your hunger during your workout, whilst getting a great source of slow-releasing energy to keep you going.
“Not only is porridge incredibly filling and easy to make, but it is also found to be a great carbohydrate source to eat after a workout as it contains essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre which can keep your hunger at bay later in the day. It can also help in refuelling depleted glycogen levels. You can eat your porridge hot or cold, sweet or savoury – there is no right or wrong way and the versatility of it is what makes it such an excellent addition to your diet when exercising.”
3. Sweet potato
“Sweet potato is a great source of complex carbohydrate, which is low on the glycaemic index, meaning that it provides sustainable energy” says Wiener. “Sweet potatoes are also rich in fibre, helping your body process the sugars, resulting in a steady supply of energy, for longer periods.
“Eating a sweet potato post-workout is ideal as they contain copper, which can help maintain healthy muscle tissue and replenish energy levels. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin C which helps to prevent muscle catabolism (the breakdown of muscle tissue).”
4. High-quality protein snacks
“If you’re on-the-go or in a hurry, high quality protein snacks are essential both pre- and post-workout,” says Mahoney. “Consuming a high-quality protein snack, such as lean meat or plain nuts, before you exercise will ensure that you’re adequately fuelling your workout. If it’s your goal to build lean muscle, then consuming protein before you head to the gym is a good idea as it will help to deliver nutrients and oxygen to your muscles.
“Protein is especially important to consume after a workout, too. During exercise, you are effectively breaking your muscles down and then letting them repair and adapt to become bigger and stronger and more efficient. If you’re exercising, and hoping to build muscle, it’s beneficial to supplement your normal intake of protein with additional food items such as protein snacks and drinks. Protein bars are a great way to get a lot of protein in a short space of time. I recommend the Carb Killa range from Grenade, which includes protein-packed shakes, bars and chocolate spreads containing 20% protein with 87% less sugar than other leading brands.”
“Blueberries are a great complex carbohydrate which can provide the body with energy for workouts” explains Wiener. “Complex carbs are important, as they digest slowly, staying in your system for longer, resulting in sustained energy and endurance. In addition, blueberries contain high amounts of water, which help to keep you hydrated during exercise.
“Blueberries also contain antioxidants such as anthocyanins that protect the body from oxidation. Oxidation (the primary cause of ageing) also occurs in the body from exercise, making blueberries a great food option post-workout to protect your body and skin from premature ageing. The high water levels in blueberries will also help to fight fatigue following a workout.”
6. Almond butter
“Natural almond butter is a great alternative to commercially sold peanut butter because it’s unprocessed and free from added salt, sugars and hidden fats. Almond butter is great for a pre-workout snack, as it contains good amounts of healthy fats and protein, making it a suitable energy booster,” says Mahoney. “Almond butter is also known to have a high calcium and copper content, which play a role in brain cell communication and in keeping your nervous system functional, while calcium also aids muscle function and maintains bone strength – ideal for those who train intensely. Its ability to help your body regulate blood sugar levels also makes it a great source of healthy fats, keeping hunger at bay throughout your workout session.
“Post-workout, the high levels of protein and carbohydrates in almond butter can help boost your energy levels and maximise muscle repair and recovery.”
“Cacao contains two natural stimulants, caffeine and theobromine, which provide long lasting energy – perfect pre-workout,” explains Wiener. “Cacao also provides the brain with a boost of dopamine which can improve mood and motivation, helping you to feel more focused in the gym.
“Post-exercise, cacao is also brilliant, as it contains anti-inflammatory properties which can aid recovery. The stimulants also help to boost and replenish energy levels, which could be lagging after a tough workout.”
From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK