Want to boost your workout performance and recovery time? A great exercise session starts and ends with the right fuel, so keep reading to find out the best foods the experts recommend to eat before and after you hit the gym, whether you’re training for a 10k or chilling out in downward dog...
BEST FOR SPINNING: Rhian Stephenson, nutritionist & CEO of Psycle London
Pre-workout: If your diet is well-balanced and you’ve eaten enough in the day leading up to your spin class, you don’t necessarily need a snack pre-workout. However, if you feel like you need a pick-me-up, try a glass of water with lemon and cayenne – the hint of sweetness is good for energy and cayenne will give you a boost. Your body won’t be happy if you’re digesting while you’re exercising so avoid heavy snacks.
Post-workout: If your next meal will be within three hours of finishing your class, you don’t need a snack. Wait to have a proper meal and be sure to include plenty of protein, unsaturated fats and nutrient-dense foods for optimal fat burning. If you’re on the go or know your next meal won’t be for a while, a protein shake is a great option. At the Psycle studios, we offer a great range – my favourite is the Revival, a blend of nut butter, greens, almond milk, a banana and a scoop of plant-based protein.
BEST FOR BARRE: Niki Rein, Founder of Barrecore
Pre-workout: An increasing amount of research suggests fat trumps carbs when it comes to pre-workout nutrition, so avoid the likes of bananas and starchy carbs in favour or a pure fat snack such as plain coconut yoghurt or coffee with butter and MCT oil (aka bulletproof coffee). A high-fat snack before your workout – or simply exercising on an empty stomach – will guarantee you’re tapping into your fat stores for energy and will mean energy levels stay high.
Post-workout: If I have the time, I’ll always have an avocado-based smoothie after a workout, ideally within 30 minutes. My favourite is a blend of lemon juice, coconut water, collagen, glutamine and a few blueberries – it’s packed with vitamins E and C to combat oxidative stress from training and both collagen and glutamine are great for muscle recovery. If you’re constantly on the go, keep a few sachets of nut butter in your gym bag – they’re the perfect high-fat interim snack before your next meal.
BEST FOR STRENGTH TRAINING: Dalton Wong, Founder of Twenty Two Training
Pre-workout: A black Americano is all I need before training for a quick energy boost. However, you need to make sure you’re fuelling yourself properly throughout the day to ensure you’re supporting your workout with good nutrition. If you wake up and train early, then have some yoghurt with berries or a green juice at least an hour before you workout; if you workout later in the day, a protein-rich handful of nuts around an hour before will give you the energy you need. If you’re exercising for less than 90 minutes it’s best to eat a snack that’s a combination of protein and healthy fats – this will guarantee your body is tapping to fat stores for energy.
Post-workout: What you eat after a workout depends on your goals. If you’re looking to increase strength, try a stir-fry with vegetables, meat and rice. But if you want to reduce body fat, have the stir-fry but without the rice. Try to avoid snacks if you can – when we snack and have regular meals, it’s far too easy to consume too much food. Always be sure to incorporate plenty of anti-inflammatories, anti-oxidants and good quality protein post-lifting, too – this will help reduce any kind of muscular damage that might occur during exercise.
BEST FOR RUNNING: Tee Von Zitzewitz, trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp
Pre-workout: Aim to have a carbohydrate-rich snack around 90 minutes before your run, especially if you’ll be running for longer than an hour. A banana or a small handful of oats and natural yoghurt are good options.
Post-workout: Be sure to have a mix of protein and carbs after running as this will help to stimulate muscle repair – great post-run meals include tuna and wholewheat pasta, chicken and quinoa salad or a vegetarian curry with brown rice. B vitamins will also help to aid recovery and break down carbs and protein for energy so eat plenty of good-quality meat, fish, nuts and wholegrains. Also make an effort to replace lost electrolytes – coconut water is a great option. If you’re into your running or training for a longer race, remember how you fuel your body post-workout is key if you’re looking to improve your performance. Don’t be afraid to eat a higher-GI meal post running as this will really help to restore glycogen stores.
BEST FOR YOGA: Chris Magee, Head Of Yoga at Another_Space
Pre-workout: Try to avoid eating within a few hours of a yoga class – it’s crucial for your body to feel light so try to practice on an empty stomach if possible. If your class is later in the day, aim for a light salad at lunch and nothing too starchy, which can make you feel lethargic.
Post-workout: Be sure to hydrate adequately after a yoga class, especially if it was an intense practice. A smoothie or green juice will tide you over until your next meal, but aim to eat within the hour after a class, opting for a good mix of protein, carbs and healthy fats. Treating your body well and fuelling it with the right nutrients will ensure you get the most out of your practice – a healthy mind and a healthy body go hand-in-hand, so give it the nutrients it needs to focus and develop strength.
BEST FOR BOXING: Toral Shah, nutritional scientist and Founder of The Urban Kitchen
Pre-workout: Boxing requires stamina, strength and endurance with a range of different training techniques so you need to fuel both your aerobic and anaerobic systems. Slow release or lower GI carbs such as sweet potato, wholegrain sourdough or oats are great – try roasted sweet potato with cottage or feta cheese, overnight oats with berries, or wholegrain toast topped with peanut butter and a piece of fruit for a good pre-workout snack. Just be sure to allow enough time for your body to digest your snack before your class.
Post-workout: First and foremost, hydration is key after an intense class. After this, a balanced meal of carbohydrates, proteins and good fat is essential, perhaps using beans, root vegetables or rice as the carbohydrate source for a more rounded nutrient profile.
DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org