What to Eat Before, During and After Exercise

The timing of eating can be important in how you feel and perform during exercise. The body needs fuel to be able to perform well, but without feeling too full or empty during exercise. Individuals typically vary in their timing of food intake, before every digests foods at different rates but also feel different on the same amount of food. For some, two hours is enough to digest a meal, but for others this would be uncomfortable. This therefore, means a small amount of experimenting is required.


Before working out, a meal should be low in fat and contain a portion of starchy foods. This should be eaten around 2-3 hours before exercising (but adapt to own preference. Avoid eating to far in advance or not eating at all, because this may result in a lack of energy and a risk of feeling light headed during exercise. If you need a top-up before working out, a small snack to boost energy levels 30-60 minutes before taking part in vigorous exercise. Hydration before working out is also important. This should be achieved by drinking throughout the day, rather than glugging a lot a short period before exercising.

A pre-workout meal should be low in fat and a portion of starchy foods such as porridge, pasta or potatoes.


If you are participating in endurance or high-intensity sports (over 60 minutes), consuming carbohydrates during exercise can enhance performance, as stores may substantially decrease whilst working out. It is also important to continue hydrating throughout the workout, especially if sweating heavily. It is better to sip the water rather than gulping as it may cause nausea. Water intake should also be increased if the environmental and/or body temperature is high. Keep sipping before you feel thirsty as this keeps stores topped up, without partly dehydrating first.

It is important to hydrate before, during and after exercise.


Food and fluid is also important for optimum recovery. After exercise, stores are lower. We use up carbohydrates and water, so it is important to replenish them, even more so if you exercise regularly. A post-exercise meal, again should be starchy but also include some lean proteins. This should be consumed as soon as possible after exercise, as this restores glycogen and muscle protein. If this is difficult, then consuming a small snack e.g. a banana or low fat milk, in the first 30-60 minutes will begin the recovery process. Also, ensure your meals are balanced by adding fruit and vegetables, ensuring you get all your essential nutrients.

It is important to consume plenty of macros and nutrients after exercising to refuel

As an average, healthy person, who exercises regularly, you probably don’t need a special nutrition strategy. This is of course, different if you’re an endurance athlete or bodybuilder. The guidelines have very little difference between different body types (ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph). The focus should be on the quality of food and quantity of food because the average person does not need to focus on nutrient timing.

If you want more information of this or help giving it a go, visit our online fitness coaching page to help customise your diet plan.

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