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The best fuel for a workout

By following some simple dietary guidelines you can really optimise an exercise session


Your diet is an inextricable part of your exercise routine. ‘What you eat before and after you work out is a balancing act of giving your body the right amount of fuel at the right time,’ says dietitian Sandi van Zyl. Here Sandi shares with us how you can make the most of your workout based on what you eat before and after it. 


  1. Eat a light meal one to two hours before your workout. However, if you don’t have time, a snack just before you work out will also do.
  2. ‘Choose something that is relatively low in fibre and fat, so that you don’t feel too full or bloated during your exercise session,’ Van Zyl suggests. 
  3. If you’re able to whip up a quick meal, go for oats with half a cup of berries. This will give you a good dose of carbs, which is needed to give your body enough energy to burn during the session.
  4. If you’re looking for a quick snack, try three-quarters of a cup of full-cream Greek yoghurt with a spoon or two of granola and half a cup of berries. For those mornings when you have a larger appetite, try adding a few raw nuts to the mix.
  5. Not a morning person? No need to fuss with assembling ingredients. Grab a handful of raisins and a banana. It’s super-simple and packs an energy punch.


Related: 7-minute workout for the busy woman



  1. For optimal recovery after your workout, try to eat or drink something within 30 to 45 minutes of completing your training session.
  2. Van Zyl emphasises that whatever you eat should contain carbohydrates to replenish the energy lost during your workout and protein for speedy muscle recovery.
  3. If you’re unable to make a meal after your workout, a green smoothie is a good way to go. Add tofu, matcha, almond milk and chia seeds to bulk it up. If you go for a protein shake, be aware of the extra kilojoules. Unless you are looking to gain weight, you shouldn’t consume more than you’ve burned in your workout session.
  4. If you’re looking for a hearty meal after your session, go for lean protein, such as fish or chicken, with some couscous or brown or wild rice and grilled vegetables.
  5. As a rule, if you’re planning to eat a meal after your workout, skip the snack or shake, as that could add unnecessary kilojoules.

Photo: iStock/Rasulovs


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