What you eat, and when, has a big impact on your energy levels and how well you recover from a workout.
We explore the various ways that you can fuel your body for specific types of workouts to help you get the maximum benefit from your training.
If you eat 3 hours before training, include carbs from whole foods, protein, and fats in your meal.
If you eat less than 1 hour before training, opt for a shake or smoothie that includes carbs and protein but is low in fibre so that it’s easy to digest.
Hydrate with water and/or an electrolyte drink, especially in warm weather.
If you are exercising for more than 90 minutes, we recommend you have a sports drink that contains carbs. Most people burn between 30 to 60 g of carbs per hour, depending on their body size and metabolism.
Plan to wait 45-60 minutes after exercising to eat; this will help you maximize your time in the fat burning zone. Your post exercise meal should contain carbs and protein from whole foods in a ratio of 3:1. There is no need for fast-digesting refined carbs, since the carbs from whole foods will replenish your glycogen stores by the next day. However, if you do plan to work out twice a day, you will need to consume fast carbs after the first workout.
If you eat 2-3 hours before training, include carbs from whole foods, protein, and fats in your meal.
If you eat less than 1 hour before training, opt for a shake or smoothie that includes carbs and protein.
Take in some EAAs (Essential Amino Acids). EAAs are a group of nine essential amino acids, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. They are considered the building blocks of muscle protein. Also, since EAA supplements require no digestion, they bypass the liver and go straight into the bloodstream for instant use by the muscles. Consuming EAAs during exercise has been shown to increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis and reduce the extent of muscle damage and soreness post workout.
Plan to eat within 15-30 minutes after a strength session. You want to get the nutrients in quickly so that you can replenish your muscles and allow them to grow stronger. Eating protein after exercise prevents protein breakdown and stimulates synthesis, encouraging faster recovery and adaptation.
You don’t need to top up your carb stores or add extra protein to your meals since you’re not exercising. Make sure that you’re consuming enough healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, and grass fed butter. Fats can slow digestion, but this is something you don’t have to worry about on a non-workout day. On rest days there’s no need to stick to a schedule of when to eat. Wait until hunger strikes to consume your meals.
While it’s important to take in quality carbs, fats, and protein every day, here are the key differences for fuelling for cardio vs strength training.
- On a cardio day make sure to top up your carb stores, because having carbs beforehand fuels long endurance training and it also enhances shorter intensity training.
- After cardio exercise wait 45-60 minutes before eating to maximise your fat burning window.
- On a strength day top up on protein before training.(5) This can reduce markers of muscle damage, and the less damage that is done to your muscles, the faster you will recover. It also supplies your body with amino acids, which can boost your muscle building capabilities.
- After strength training consume your food within 15-30 minutes so that your muscles can recover and rebuild right away.