Before exercise
Pre-workout meals help you achieve your maximum potential when you exercise. They give you the fuel you need to power through your workout, improve your concentration and also increase your metabolism, which aids in weight loss.

Drink about two to three cups of water (473 to 710ml) two to three hours before your workout. Proper hydration improves the quality of your workout, reduces fatigue and increases your level of satisfaction. It is therefore important to drink up before you exercise, even if you don’t perspire heavily.

Your pre-workout bites should be nutritionally balanced and include some form of protein and complex carbohydrates that are easily digested and are low in fat. Consume them about two to four hours before your workout to avoid feeling nauseated and uncomfortable during exercise. 

Carbohydrates help fuel your training, improve your performance, increase muscle retention and growth, improve protein synthesis, prevent protein breakdown and also aids in recovery. Pre-exercise meals should therefore comprise at least 200g of carbohydrates. This can come in the form of a bowl of oatmeal, whole-grain toast or cereal, an egg sandwich or low-fat yogurt.

During exercise
The goals of intra-workout nutrition are similar to those of pre-workout meals. During longer workout sessions, you need to replenish your carbohydrate stores to fuel your workout.

For training sessions under an hour, drink about half to one cup of water (118 to 237ml) every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. Adjust the amount according to the weather and your body size. For training sessions that last above an hour, isotonic drinks can be taken to replace fluid loss and depleted glycogen stores.

For training sessions over an hour, consume about 25g of carbohydrates per 30 minutes of exercise. Carbohydrates provide an immediate fuel source to boost performance and recovery, and reduce cortisol levels. Bananas, raisins, sports drinks, energy bars and gels are some quickly digestible sources of carbohydrates.

Taking in protein during this period also helps to prevent muscle breakdown, leading to improved recovery and greater adaptation to long-term training. Protein also helps you to gain muscle mass and endurance for longer and more intense training bouts. 

After exercise
Post-workout nutrition is essential for quick recovery. The sooner you start refuelling, the better!

Eating after a workout provides your muscles with raw materials to replenish whatever has been lost during exercise. It also helps reduce cortisol levels, muscle soreness and fatigue, thereby enhancing overall recovery.

When you work up a sweat during exercise, your body loses large amounts of water. Hydrating after you exercise helps you to replace the fluids lost during physical activity and prevents dehydration. Liquids like smoothies, shakes or chocolate milk can be especially effective as they provide all the nutrients you need after a workout.

After hydrating yourself, it is best to consume high GI (glycaemic index) foods that are high in carbohydrates, such as potatoes and cereals, as they enter your bloodstream more quickly. Consume 50 to 100g of carbohydrates within the first 15 minutes after your workout to optimise recovery. Then, aim to consume at least 600g of carbohydrates in the next 24 hours. 

Proteins also help speed up the sugar uptake into the body and repair any damaged muscles. However, avoid eating too much protein after a workout as this can slow down rehydration. The rule of thumb would be to take four grams of carbohydrates to one gram of protein. 

Reprinted from Raffles Healthnews publication, Issue 02/2015, “Your Complete Workout Nutrition Guide”, pp. 20-21/ Copyright 2015, with permission from Raffles Medical Group.