What to eat before and after the gym

Veena Mistry Nutritional Therapist More by this author
What you eat before and after the gym can make a big difference to your performance and results. But it can be difficult to know which formula to follow. Veena Mistry sheds some light.

We go to the gym because we want to feel fit and healthy and look our best. But many of us struggle to understand one of the key factors in a good gym session – nutrition. Good nutrition can not only support a healthy body from the inside, it can help improve your performance.

But getting the balance right can be challenging. Should you pack in lots of carbohydrates to give you energy before your workout, or save them for after? If you don’t eat enough before the gym you can feel dizzy, due to low blood sugar; but if you eat too much you can be sluggish and may even feel nauseous. Finding the right balance is key.

Pre-workout snacks

Pre workout snacks should include complex carbs, your body’s preferred source of fuel, and protein, which provides the essential building blocks for body tissue.

Wholegrain toast with almond nut butter, banana and ground cinnamon Eating one slice of this tasty pre-workout snack will release energy slowly and steadily throughout your workout.

Bananas are a great source of potassium, which is essential for muscle function, so this recipe will help boost potassium levels, which are lost through sweat.

Smoothies Smoothies are a good way to combine carbohydrate and protein. Try a smoothie that includes a cup of Greek yoghurt, banana and blueberries (also a great source of antioxidants) with a cup of unsweetened almond or coconut milk.

Post-workout snacks

“After a workout, food can help you to repair, refuel and recover.”

When you workout you put stress on your muscles and create small tears which then need to repair. Protein is vital for the growth and repair of muscle tissue. As hard training depletes the body’s stores of protein it is important to refuel with high protein snacks as soon as possible. 

20g of protein is the magic number that you need to hit to optimise the recovery process after training. This can be found in any of these foods:

  • 500ml milkshake 
  • Natural yoghurt-based fruit smoothie 
  • Wholegrain bread with lean meats, eggs or low fat cheese
  • Greek yoghurt, granola and mixed berries 


As well as repairing, your body will need to refuel after an energy-guzzling workout session. Eat complex carbohydrates to help restore energy.

A minimum of 1g per kg of bodyweight is a good general guide. This can be found in: 

  • Two slices of wholegrain bread 
  • Two handfuls of wholegrain pasta 
  • Two handfuls of brown basmati rice

After a tough workout you may feel less like eating but more like drinking. This is because a build-up of acids in your body after intense workouts can lead to loss of appetite and nausea in some cases.

If you have a low appetite after working out you can have a shake instead. Try this recipe, which contains a good blend of carbohydrate and protein with some fluids to help you recover:

Always remember to drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout to provide stamina and replace fluids lost through sweating.

Thursday 26 November 2015

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