Eating And Exercise: Nutrition Tips To Maximise The Effectiveness Of Your Workout

When and what you eat can be important to how you feel when you exercise, whether it's a casual low intensity workout or high intensity training for a race or a competition. Consider these nutrition tips to maximise the effectiveness of your workouts.

1. Eat a good breakfast

If you train in the morning before work, aim to finish your breakfast at least an hour before you start your workout. Be well-fuelled going into your workout. Studies show that eating or drinking carbohydrates before training can enhance your workout performance and may even enable you to work out for a longer duration or at a higher intensity. If you decide not to have breakfast before your workout, you might feel sluggish or lightheaded when you start training.

If you plan to train within an hour after breakfast, keep it very light or drink something such as a sports drink. Emphasize carbohydrates for maximum energy.

Good breakfast options include:

  • Whole-grain cereals or bread
  • Low-fat milk
  • Juice
  • A banana
  • Yoghurt
  • A pancake

And remember, if you normally drink coffee in the mornings, a cup before training is probably OK, but no more. Also be aware that anytime you try a food or drink for the first time before training, you risk upsetting your stomach.

2. Portion Size

Be careful not to go overboard when it comes to how much food you consume before exercise. The general guidelines suggest:

  • Large meals. Eat these at least three to four hours before training
  • Small meals or snacks. Eat these about one to three hours before you start your workout

Consuming too much food before you train can leave you feeling sluggish. However, consuming too little might not give you the energy you require to perform your workout effectively. 

3. Snack well

The majority of the population can eat small snacks right before and also during their workout. The key is how you feel. Do what works best for your body. Snacks consumed just before training probably won't give you any added energy if your workout is less than an hour, but may help prevent distracting hunger pangs. If your training session is longer than 60 minutes, you may benefit by including a carbohydrate-rich snack or drink during your workout. Good snack options include:

  • An energy bar
  • A banana, apple or other fresh fruit
  • Yoghurt
  • Fruit smoothie
  • A wholemeal bagel or crackers
  • A low-fat granola bar
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Sports drink or diluted juice

A healthy snack is particularly important if you plan to exercise several hours after a meal.

4. Fuel your body after you train

To help your muscles recover effectively, aim to eat a meal that contains both carbohydrates and protein within two hours of finishing your training session. Good post-workout food choices include:

  • Yoghurt and fruit
  • A peanut butter sandwich
  • Low-fat chocolate milk and pretzels
  • Post-workout recovery smoothie
  • Turkey on wholemeal bread with vegetables

5. Stay Hydrated 

Remember to drink fluids before, during and after exercise to help prevent dehydration.

To stay well-hydrated for exercise, it is recommended that you:

  • Drink roughly 2 to 3 cups (473 to 710 millilitres) of water during the two to three hours before your workout.
  • Drink about 1/2 to 1 cup (118 to 237 millilitres) of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. 
  • Drink roughly 2 to 3 cups (473 to 710 millilitres) of water after your workout.

Water is generally the best choice, but if you're exercising for more than an hour, consume a sports drink, as they can help maintain your body's electrolyte balance and give you a bit more energy because they contain carbohydrates.


When it comes to eating and exercise, no one person is the same, so let your experience guide you on which pre- and post-exercise eating habits work best for you. Consider keeping a diary to monitor how your body reacts to meals and snacks so that you can tweak your diet for optimal performance.

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