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Eating around exercise and WHY?

Eating around exercise and WHY?
Weight Loss Articles
Weight Loss Articles

By Matt Firth at Kogarah

Eating around exercise and WHY?

Fitting exercise into a hectic lifestyle can be a challenge, and planning meals around the exercise is another. Eating too much food, or the wrong food before exercise, can affect your performance or cause you to train feeling sluggish and even can cause vomiting. On the other hand, if you haven't eaten in six hours and try to work out, you may feel weak and fatigued. The type and time of meal is important. A big breakfast may be troublesome before a workout but a small bowl of low GI carbohydrates would be great.


Pre Workout

In terms of food before doing exercise, your goal should be to have "premium" fuel in your body from nutritious food that is no longer present in your stomach at the time of your workout. A good choice of pre-exercise food before a workout will prevent hunger and supply energy. Low GI carbohydrates are easily digested. Big meals which contain carbs, proteins and fats will sit in the stomach and not optimize performance. They will also cause that nauseous feeling and cause vomiting if you are pushing yourself too hard. You should follow this structure around any type of moderate to hard exercise. In detailed terms the reason we have pre work out meals are as follows:

  • Reduce muscle glycogen depletion (Glycogen is the main way the body stores glucose for later use)
  • Reduce muscle protein breakdown (Muscle is critical in fat loss)
  • Reduce post workout cortisol levels (steroid hormone made in the adrenal gland)


You want every gram of carbohydrate you consume to be utilized as an immediate fuel source or to restore glycogen levels, you don't want it to be stored as fat. I like clients to have at least one meal under the belt before training. Your pre exercise meal should include complex carbohydrates like rolled oats or sweet potatoes. Your first meal will provide an hour for carbs to get digested and go to work, ensuring blood sugar levels are up and glycogen levels are full prior to training.


Protein is essential for tissue growth and muscle repair. Since the body is continuously breaking down proteins, our diet must provide sufficient quantities. Protein in your diet and pre and post exercise is critical for muscle repair, recovery, and growth. The right choice and right amount before a workout is crucial to ensure you don't get that sluggish and nauseous feeling. For example, a big breakfast containing eggs bacon and sausages, its packed with an excessive amount of protein and what comes with it is a hell of a lot of saturated fat. This will not optimise the workout.

Post Workout (Hard Weights)

Carbohydrates and proteins

When you are doing a hard weights session with a trainer the working muscles use glucose (usable energy) and glycogen (stored energy) for energy. Therefore there is a point at which blood glucose levels (available energy) and glycogen levels (stored energy) can get to such a low point that exercise can't continue properly, form is lost and you feel super fatigued. There just isn't enough available energy for your muscles to use. What happens next is that the hormone cortisol (the stress hormone) is secreted and can have catabolic (de constructive metabolism) effects. Then what the cortisol does is use muscle tissue for protein and turn it into glucose, it produces glucose from the amino acids in the liver. This results in lost muscle tissue.


The post exercise shake prevents this. It also allows insulin to be released, one of several anabolic (constructive metabolism) hormones in the body. It is critical to get the carbohydrates and protein to the muscle cells as fast as possible and elevated insulin levels will help to drive nutrients to the muscle.


Light-Moderate Weights

A whey protein shake is sufficient after a more moderate workout where the body has not been under super stress. Same concept as above applies only you haven't been to the point where there isn't enough available energy for your body to use.



*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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