How to supercharge your workout
When it comes to eating and exercise, there is lots of conflicting information out there.
Lite n’ Easy Dietitian Melissa Holloway helps you decide what to eat and when, to ensure you perform at your best.
Are you hungry?
To perform at your best and get the most out of exercise, it’s important to avoid being hungry. This is because hunger is a sign our body needs more fuel. Have you ever tried to drive a car with no petrol in the tank? I’m sure you didn’t get very far! When it comes to exercise, food is the fuel we need, particularly if we want to push hard. When our fuel sources run low, we become hungry, unfocussed and low on energy, and we aren’t able to perform at our best.
What type of exercise?
Low intensity or shorter bouts of exercise (such as a half hour brisk walk) should be comfortable without any extra food beforehand. Unless you are feeling ravenous before you even begin! Longer or higher intensity exercise, such as a spin class, will burn through a lot more of your energy stores so it’s important to ensure you are fuelled beforehand to avoid hunger and low energy midway through your class.
Fuelling yourself well means planning your meals and snacks based on time frame you’ve got and your comfort levels of eating before exercise. When did you last eat? If you are doing some exercise after work, you are likely to have had a lunch meal around four hours beforehand, so you might be running a little low on fuel. Try to fit in a carbohydrate-rich snack within two hours of starting the session. Good options are fruit and yoghurt, a piece of toast with spread, a tub of creamed rice, a small bowl of cereal or a muesli bar. This will give you enough time to digest your snack pre-workout and avoid feeling unwell during the session while giving you the fuel to perform at your best.
If you start the day with exercise, and you’re doing more than a short, brisk walk, you might need to have a small breakfast. This can include a piece of toast with honey and banana or a small bowl of cereal to ensure you make it the full way through. Eggs on toast is fine, but bear in mind that proteins and fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates so you may still feel that food in your tummy well into your session. Make sure you also have plenty of fluids every day, particularly on hot days – water, herbal teas or flavoured mineral waters to ensure you are always hydrated.
Do I need to eat during exercise?
For most sessions that are up to 60 to 90 minutes long, then your body’s stores should be enough to get you through, particularly if it’s not a high intensity session. For anything longer than 90 mins, you might need a snack or carbohydrate-based drink during the session to keep you at your best. Depending on what you can tolerate, you could try a banana, a muesli bar or a carbohydrate-based sports drink.
In the end
It all comes back to your individual scenario and whether you find yourself too hungry and tired to work hard during exercise sessions. On the other hand, some people feel discomfort if they have food too close to exercise, so you do need to plan a little bit. Remember that food is fuel – and you will be able to work harder and longer during high intensity or longer sessions of exercise when you are properly fuelled. Choosing to not eat before exercise because you think it will benefit weight loss only holds you back from your full potential.
Melissa Holloway is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with extensive experience working in foodservice across a range of industries including aged care, elite sport and in hospitals. She is passionate about ensuring people have access to not only fresh and healthy food options, but also that people get to choose food that they truly enjoy. As a busy Mum, Melissa loves preparing healthy and delicious food for her family.