How to fuel your workout

So in previous articles we’ve laid the foundations on how the World’s best use the Performance Nutrition principles to be on top of their game – now let’s get into some more detail on what can make the difference to you each day.

The most important starting point is to sort what you are eating directly before and after your workout – because what you eat then (specifically the nutrients; carbohydrates, proteins, fats) – will either enhance or reduce your gains from your workout – it’s that important!

So, first up let’s get our language right: We often refer to the pre-training feeding as ‘fuelling’ as it provides the energy (fuel) for the muscles during training.

Post-training is known as the ‘recovery’ meal or snack – to both refuel the muscles (stored as glycogen) and to kick start the repair process (muscle protein synthesis), which lasts for > 24 hours! Lots of people automatically think of a recovery shake first here, but a well formulated snack or meal can be as effective.

The fuel your body requires depends on two of the key Performance Nutrition principles:

  1. The Goal

Whether your focus is to reduce your body fat or improve your half marathon performance – this will affect your fuelling needs for the workout.

For example – if the goal is to lean up, then training fasted (before breakfast) or having a low-carb meal before training, can prime the body to breakdown it’s fat stores and use as fuel during the workout (called ‘oxidising’ fat, or more commonly known as, ‘fat burning’).

When the goal is performance (e.g. running a half marathon as quickly as possible) the higher intensity increases the use of carbohydrates by the body as the main fuel.

Ultimately, your plan will change based on whether you need to fuel for a high-intensity session or are reducing the carbs to lean up longer term.

  1. The Activity

Different types of workout stress the body and muscles differently – whether these are; High intensity interval training (HIIT), endurance (e.g. running, marathon training), or resistance training:

Low Fuel (i) – For longer, low intensity endurance sessions (e.g. running, cycling) – reducing the carbs beforehand (called ‘training low’), encourages the body to adapt to the training, making it more efficient at using fat as fuel.

This means a higher protein meal or snack beforehand, such as; an omelette, smoked salmon & scrambled eggs, or a Greek yoghurt pot.  For shorter, low intensity aerobic sessions (< 1 hour) – Training fasted (e.g. before breakfast) is generally fine.

High Fuel (ii) – For harder training (e.g. 10k race or fitness test) as soon as the intensity increases the body uses more carbohydrate as fuel, this means having a carb-based meal pre (e.g. oatmeal, tortilla wrap with lean meat or quinoa salad) beforehand. If you know the session is going to be a monster – go in fuelled!

And here’s how – with a fuelling option to liven any office lunch break:

Thai Quinoa Salad:

+ Chicken Protein Ball:

Recovery – The recovery meal is designed to provide a balance of both carbohydrates to refuel the muscles and a high-quality protein to kick start the repair and remodelling of the muscle tissue. Don’t forget the fats and vegetables here too – in particular, antioxidant fruits and vegetables, can also help the repair process and reduce muscle soreness (DOMS) the days following! The only time where you may wish to cut the carbs is if the training has been short, low intensity workout (< 1 hour).
This recipe provides a new twist on an old favourite – not only high in carbs, also provides a good source of protein to repair the muscles, whilst also boosting iron intake, a key component of energy production.

Vietnamese Beef Pho Stir Fry:

With all types of training it’s important to rehydrate immediately post – whether heading home or back to the office!

I work with a team of chefs to create dishes with the right blend of nutrients to keep athletes on top of their game. The recipes below will help to guide your training and recovery: