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  • Writer's pictureChanise | Sports Dietitian

What Athletes Should Eat Before and After Training

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

Are you stuck with what are the best types of Food to eat before and after Training? It can be really important to ensure you are getting the right nutrients to support your energy levels during Training and then also promote sufficient recovery after training so that you are ready for your next session the following day. There has been extensive research which shows performance benefits for Athletes who prioritise their nutrition around their Training vs Athletes who do not. To learn how to eat and utilise these foods for your extra energy boost, read more on this article or contact our trusted Sports Dietitian to have your personalised meal plan for you and your lifestyle.

An image of chopped salad with eggs and tomatoes to help you boost your energy during performance
Boost your performance with these energy boosting meal and snacks ideas

This blog features:

  • How to Fuel your Body with Pre-Training Nutrition: Meal and Snack

  • What Foods Should You Prioritise After Training?: Snack and Meal

  • 2 FAQs for Pre-Training and Post-Training Meals for Athletes

Why do we need to fuel and refuel our bodies before and after exercise? It’s simple, consuming food and liquids before, during, and after exercise helps to maximise energy availability, exercise performance, and speed up recovery.

How to Fuel Your Body With Pre-Training Nutrition: Meal and Snacks

A fueled body can augment muscle build-up and liver glycogen stores. It provides you with the energy needed during your workout by guaranteeing sufficient sugar (energy) levels. Make sure to consume a meal prior to Training around 3 hours before and a snack 30 minutes before your training/game/competition.

For pre-training meals, always plan to have a well-balanced meal with carbohydrates (well tolerated) and moderate protein, steer away from high-fat fried foods and cream-based dishes since they are slow to digest and can sit in your stomach for too long!

Focus on:

  1. Carbohydrates: Consuming carbohydrates before training can help provide the body with quick energy. Good sources of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and starchy vegetables like potatoes.

  2. Protein: Although protein is essential for muscle recovery and repair, for pre-training, only choose moderate amounts of protein which can include eggs, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and lentils. Protein is more important after training, where this meal is all about getting in extra energy for your training!

  3. Hydration: It is important to stay hydrated before and during training. Water is the best option, but sports drinks can be helpful for longer training sessions.

Here are some examples:

Breakfast: A bowl of oatmeal with fruit and nuts or an omelette with toast.

An image of a bowl of oats topped with nuts and fruits. A plate of omellete and toast
Oats contain a type of soluble fiber that is beneficial for endurance runners.

Lunch: Wrap with grilled chicken and salad.

An image of Wrap with grilled chicken and salad.
Wraps can be incredibly nutritious and filling when you pack them with lean protein, fresh vegetables, healthy carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Dinner: Pasta with meat or plain Napoli sauce.

An image of pasta with meat and Napoli sauce
For athletes, especially those participating in endurance sports, pasta is a great meal option. It is abundant in complex carbohydrates, which we use as their primary source of fuel.

For a pre-training snack, consider a small amount of fast-digestible, low fibre carbohydrate-rich foods, which is best to be eaten 30 minutes to 1 hour before a training session to avoid low blood sugar levels and hunger.

Examples of pre-training snacks include:

Muesli bars: Look for bars which contain oats and are limited in nuts and seeds

Fruit: Apples, bananas, and oranges are all easy-to-pack options that provide a quick energy source.

Greek yoghurt: Greek yoghurt is high in protein and can be topped with fruit

Smoothies: Blend together frozen fruit, yoghurt, and milk or a plant-based milk alternative for a quick and easy pre-training snack.

Hydration: hydrating with a sports drink may be beneficial if your training is longer than 1 hour or is extremely cardio-based. This will ensure that the sweat that you lose from training is depleted, along with electrolytes.

An image of Smoothies, muesli bar, blended cold fruits and sports drink for athletes' snacks 30 mins to 1 hour before the game.
These snacks are best eaten 30 minutes to 1 hour before a training session to avoid low blood sugar levels and to aid your hunger.

What Foods Should You Prioritise After Training?

Eating the right nutrition after training is just as important as your training. For post-training, your nutritional priorities are to replenish glycogen stores, repair tissues, rehydrate, and recover after training.

Unlike pre-training meals, post-training meals should start with a light snack straight after finishing your session so your stomach can adjust for the recovery period to begin. So within the first 30-45 mins after your training or workout, prioritise a small serving of protein and carbohydrates such as:

  • Protein smoothie

  • Protein bar and a piece of fruit

  • Greek yoghurt and fruit

  • Also ensure you are also rehydrating with water or a sports drink!

An image of different type of snacks and drinks for athlete such as protein smoothie, granola bars, Greek yoghurt, water and sports drink.
Athlete's require the right foods after training in order to replenish glycogen stores, repair tissues, rehydrate, and recover well.

Splitting your food intake into two can help you recover and rehydrate properly. Post-training meals can look similar to the pre-training meal (3hrs before) with a balance of carbohydrates and protein but can also include higher amounts of healthy fats to support recovery. Although inn saying this, prioritising protein and carbohydrates will still remain the most important because you want to replenish the energy (glycogen) storage used throughout training from carbohydrates and recover your muscles with protein.

Take charge of your health and well-being with the guidance of our dedicated Dietitian. Book an appointment today.

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2 FAQs for pre-training and post-training meals for Athletes

Should I take protein before or after Workout?

Protein intake is best utilised when consumed 30 minutes and 3 hours after your workout. Protein helps the muscles to recover faster from your training or workout. However, if you tolerate protein before training, a moderate amount is not harmful at all!

Which fruit is best after a Workout?

Fruits with high vitamins, folate, antioxidants and macronutrients (with iron and potassium) assist in replenishing the shed sweat. Fruits like berries, dates, bananas, and grapefruit are good sources of energy.

So to summarise..

Pre-training meals and snacks should focus on providing the body with the energy and nutrients it needs to perform at its best, while post-training meals and snacks should focus on recovery and replenishing energy stores.

To fuel your body before a training session, make sure to consume a well-balanced meal with carbohydrates and moderate protein about 3 hours beforehand. Try to avoid fatty, fried foods or cream-based foods that are slow to digest but can also upset your stomach. Ensuring you have a small snack about 30 minutes to an hour before your training session, like a piece of fruit or a low-fat smoothie, will help to avoid low blood sugar levels and hunger.

After your training session, start with a light snack to allow your stomach to adjust, hunger hormones to start circulating, and for the recovery period to begin. Choosing foods and drinks with protein, like a protein smoothie or a protein bar with fruit, will help muscles recover. Also, make sure to rehydrate with drinks that have electrolytes.

Make sure to contact our dietitian to know what type of nutrition is best for your lifestyle. You can also check other blog posts: How To Increase Your Daily Protein Intake! Benefits of Intermittent Fasting on our Health


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