It’s winter here in Australia, and because we know summer bodies are made now, we are exercising a lot at the moment.
We’re not sure about you, but daily workouts mean food is constantly on our minds. What to eat before and after a workout are the biggest questions. Should I carb up after a morning spin class (hello hot buttered toast) or tuck into a banana on the way to the gym?
We grilled our resident workout queen Zara for all the answers.
nuut: zara how does nutrition relate to exercise?
Za: Nutrition and exercise go hand-in-hand. Think of your body as a car - you have to keep your engine running when you workout. This means fuelling your body’s systems by eating the perfect amount of healthy foods and fluids at exactly the right times.
nuut: The food we eat before exercising greatly affects the quality of our performance as well as how we feel during and after exercise. What foods should we eat to prevent low blood sugar, stay satiated and care for our muscles?
Za: While everyone is different and taking into account that we all have different nutritional requirements, the following foods are the perfect balance of fats, carbs, and protein.
Bananas - Packed with carbohydrates and potassium to support nerve and muscle function.
Oats – Full of fiber and known to release carbohydrates gradually. Due to this slow release, energy levels are kept consistent throughout your workout, meaning you can train harder for longer.
Fruit & Greek yogurt - A killer combo, the fruit is full of carbohydrates while Greek yogurt packs a protein-filled punch.
Tip - Make sure you eat your meal and snack 30-90 minutes before you work out, so you don’t feel bloated.
nuut: We know protein, carbs and fats taken before and after a workout are important but what benefits do each of them provide?
Za: Each macronutrient has a specific role before a workout and are key sources of energy.
Protein for strong muscles - helps building, maintenance and repair of new muscle fibres and damaged tissues. Some examples include:
- fish, like salmon and tuna
Carbs for energy – An essential energy source they provide the energy your muscles need to exercise, as well as help with recovery i.e. replenishes glycogen stores. Examples include:
- vegetables like broccoli and sweet potato
- wholegrain pasta
- brown rice
- wholegrain bread
Fats - Limit the amount of fat you eat post-workout as it may slow down the absorption of nutrients. In saying that, having a small amount of fat in your post workout meal won’t affect your recovery. Include these foods rich in unsaturated fats (healthy fats):
- nuts and seeds
- olive oil
nuut: What is the biggest mistake people make to fuel their body’s for exercise?
Za: The one I hear about most often is not eating after a workout with the fear of "eating back" what you've burned. It’s so important to eat something afterwards as you’re delivering the nutrients your body needs to properly recover.
nuut: What is your favourite nuut post-workout smoothie to make?
Za: My current post-workout smoothie is a delicious concoction of protein, simple carbs and healthy fats in one glass.
1 sachet nuut Daily Balance
300ml oat milk
1 frozen banana
1 tbsp almond butter
A small handful frozen cauliflower
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp hemp seeds
Combine in a blender and blitz until smooth.
nuut: Why is keeping hydrated so important during exercise?
Za: When we workout, our bodies lose water at a rapid speed. Faster, deeper breathing along with sweat production means more of our fluids are being evaporated away. Along with that fluid goes critical nutrients and electrolytes. This can quickly lead to dehydration. We therefore need to replenish the fluids lost during exercise.
nuut: How much water do you need to consume daily?
Za: Use this simple equation to calculate:
Your weight in kilogram divided by 0.024 = how many millilitres of water your body requires each day.
nuut: What are some easy ways to keep hydrated? It’s so hard during winter!
Za: Keep it warm! Hot drinks like green tea or luke-warm lemon water ( my morning go-to).
nuut: How many calories do we need to consume so we're not calorie deficit?
Za: An ideal daily intake of calories varies depending on age, metabolism and levels of physical activity. As a general rule, the recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories a day for women and 3000 for men.
A great tool for this is the TDEE calculator.
nuut: How important is looking after muscles post-workout?
Za: What happens when you’re not exercising (after a workout) is just as important as the exercise itself. We need to give our muscle fibres a chance to rebuild and absorb our training.
nuut: What are some key ways to do this?
Za: Refuel your body with a smoothie packed with protein and carbs to help muscles repair and rebuild.
A warm bath can soothe tired limbs, calm the mind and assist sleep – all of which definitely help recovery.
Stretching for 10-15 minutes stretches out muscles that helps minimise risk of injury and the chance of developing stiff muscles and tendons.
Rest days are a big lesson learnt from experience. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Your body needs rest between sessions to move from muscle breakdown to muscle building (and to make sure we’re not overloading our system). Take one to two rest days every seven to 10 days.
image of Zara via Bike Bar