Eating For Exercise


Not quite sure what the best foods are for exercise? You may be surprised to know that the foods that will help you get the most out of your exercise session are not that much different from what nutritionists recommend generally for everyone - essentially include a wide variety of nutritious foods. We’ve put together a simple guide to help you keep your energy levels up pre-exercise, during exercise (for longer sessions) and post exercise. Follow these simple tips to help keep you running on all cylinders.

Exercise and carbohydrates go hand in hand
Carbohydrate is the body’s primary source of energy so if you are exercising it is particularly important that you include carbohydrate foods in your diet. Carbohydrates are found in starchy foods such as breads and pastas as well as sweet foods such as fruit and spreads like jam and honey. Eating a small carbohydrate rich meal or snack before you head off to exercise will help to maintain your energy so you can perform at your best both mentally and physically. This is especially important if you are exercising in the morning as you will not have eaten for a number of hours.

Nutritious carbohydrate-rich snack ideas:
- Banana
- Oatmeal / porridge or wholegrain muesli bar
- Toast with Peanut butter or Jam
- Baked Beans

Do I need to eat during my workout?
Whether you need to “top up” during your training session will depend to a large extent on how long and how intensely you are exercising. Each person’s requirements will differ. The main reason to eat and drink during a training session is to keep your body hydrated and to keep up your energy levels. A good rule of thumb is to keep a small “top up” on hand if you intend to exercise more than an hour and a half. For example, sports drinks and gels are compact, widely available and can help you get the energy and hydration required with minimal fuss.

Carbs, protein and fluids help to replenish your body after exercise
After exercising (especially long bouts of exercise more than 1.5hrs) it is important to top up your energy levels and replace fluids lost during exercise. Specifically you will need to replace carbohydrate (for energy), fluids (for hydration) and protein (to help maintain and repair muscle tissue).

Tasty snacks for re-fueling after exercise:
- Low fat fruit smoothie
- Breakfast cereal with milk
- Low fat flavoured milk drink
- Liquid meal supplement

What should I eat if I am competing in an event?
If you are training for an event, it is important not to introduce new things into your routine on the day of the event. Essentially, the same dietary advice applies on event day as the days leading up to your event.  In particular remember to refuel and re-hydrate your body as soon as possible after finishing the event. You may not feel up to eating or drinking immediately post event. If that is the case, simply take small sips of a sports drink or other beverages containing sugar until you feel up to having a small meal or snack. Try not to leave this longer than 30 minutes post finish, to help your recovery.


Got a question?

Our FAQs are here to help

Go to faqs

Related articles