How to fuel your workout
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrate is the fuel for the body. It is our body’s preferred energy source and is stored in your muscles as glycogen. These glycogen stores need to be topped up every day, particularly if you are exercising daily and even more so if you are exercising at a high level of intensity. Avoiding carbohydrates can leave you feeling tired. It can lead to poor performance when exercising and also slow recovery after.
The good news is most people can easily get enough carbohydrates from a healthy balanced diet. Athletes and anyone involved in regular high-intensity training sessions may need to increase carbohydrate intake depending on their specific requirements.
Do I need a pre-workout?
Pre-workout drinks and supplements are often marketed to gym-goers as an easy way to boost energy and performance. There are several types of pre-workout supplements on the market that feature different ingredients like caffeine, carbohydrates, amino acids, antioxidants, and B vitamins.
These supplements can be beneficial prior to a workout but are by no means essential. You can achieve similar results with a high carbohydrate snack or light meal two to three hours before your workout.
If you are about to tackle an intense activity like running, fast cycling and HITT, then it’s also best to opt for a snack lower in fat and fibre to reduce the risk of digestive upset.
You could try:
- Toast with peanut butter and banana
- A simple smoothie - A handful of berries/a banana, 1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons yoghurt and 1-2 teaspoons honey blitzed together.
- A small handful of dried fruit - raisins, apricots, dates and nuts
- A small bowl of cereal and milk
- A skim milk latte coffee and a cereal bar
- 1-2 slices of toast with Marmite
What about post-exercise?
After you’ve finished your workout it’s super important to replenish your glycogen stores within the hour. This is the ideal time to have a carbohydrate containing meal or snack.
Around 50g of carbohydrate is a good amount to aim for, but this will depend on your individual activity, the duration and intensity of your workout, your body size etc.
What is 50g of carbohydrate?
- Two medium-large bananas
- 15 dried apricots
- 800ml isotonic sports drink
- Two slices of thick sliced bread
- 500ml fruit juice
- One large bowl (60g) of cereal
- Two carbohydrate gels
- 150-160g cooked pasta/rice
- Three (25g) cereal bars
- One large jacket potato
For that extra recovery boost, you can also include a good source of protein in this meal or snack to help your muscles repair – for more information on proteins, you can check out our blog post ‘Do I need a protein shake?’