People often ask me what I eat pre and post training, and it’s pretty much the same every time;
I don’t eat before I train, as I train in the mornings (just some herbal tea). My focus is also remaining lean and light, so I like to train on an empty stomach. Post workout (around 11am), I have a pretty substantial breakfast; two poached eggs (only one yoke), ricotta, avocado, tomato, smoked salmon and toast, with my earl grey tea (that I savour!). If I’m lucky, I eat my breaky at my favourite cafe LUXE, Bondi. I then have a really light lunch, a snack and light dinner (followed by a little sweet treat most nights).
But don’t listen to me, I’ve called in the big guns! Our resident Nutritionist, Steph Lowe sets the record straight on the ideal way to eat pre and post training.
Pre training guidelines
1. Choosing some sessions to complete fasted (i.e. on an empty stomach) is important for metabolic efficiency and to develop your natural fat-burning ability. Depending on the composition of your previous meal, it takes five to eight hours to fully digest and shift into fasting mode. Therefore, the easiest way to train fasted is first thing in the morning. Start with two sessions per week of 30 minutes in duration.
2. Outside of fasted training, your food choice should depend on the specificity of the session.
For a high intensity workout: For high intensity or interval sessions, a carbohydrate snack can be useful to support the high heart rate and increased reliance on carbohydrate as a fuel source to support this session. A piece of fruit is a great simple option that you will only need to eat half an hour prior to commencing. A banana, for example, has a nice balance of fructose and glucose which provides optimal fuel to the body at this time.
Low intensity: For sessions of low intensity and/or extended duration, a lower carbohydrate choice is best. Your body has a much lower carbohydrates requirement at this heart rate when trained, so minimising your exogenous carbohydrate that which you consume) can help reorchestrate your fuel preference and increase your fat burning ability accordingly. A great example is a chia pudding – simply soak three tablespoons of chai seeds in nut milk over-night and serve topped with fresh berries and yoghurt. If you choose a full serve, you may find 90 minutes prior to exercise is the ideal time to eat your pre-training meal.
Post training guidelines
Within an hour of training:
1. Eat within the hour post training to assist the recovery process with nutrient dense real food.
2. The bulk of your meal should come from quality protein, good fats and predominately non-starchy vegetables.
3. To this, add a small amount of complex carbohydrates to top up muscle glycogen and ensure you are ready to go for your next session. The best choices are fruits such as bananas and mangos, and starchy vegetables such as sweet potato and potato. Grains such as pasta, bread and rice come out of a packet and can’t beat what nature provides.
4. Try a smoothie as the liquid nature provides optimal absorption at a time where energy is being diverted away from the digestive system and into the recovery process.
5. Other great ideas include a banana sliced down the middle and spread with almond butter, an omelette with last night’s roasted vegetables and half an avocado, or grass-fed steak with steamed greens and sweet potato chips.
Prioritise real food, but lower your carbohydrate intake to keep your body in its natural fat burning zone.
- Prioritise quality protein such as meat, fish, chicken and eggs. Aim for a palm rise portion or three eggs, which will provide about 20g of protein.
- Add one to two portions (~30 grams) of good quality fats such as avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nuts or butter.
- Aim for two cups of green vegetables with your main meals.
In terms of portions, the guidelines above can also be applied to immediately post-training too.
Proper nutrition can make such a difference to your training, so it’s worth focussing on. Happy eating… and training!