Trying to exercise on a poor diet is a lot like trying to race a sports car with a tankful of orange juice: pretty pointless.
And at the end of the day, you’re working out to see results, which is why you need to treat your body like an expensive sports car and give it the fuel it deserves to help you progress and recover properly.
Here’s what the experts reckon you should be filling up on, both before and after hitting the gym:
Despite what women’s magazines may tell you, carbs are not bad. Your body needs them to recover after a workout and build new muscle. And bananas are the ultimate cheap, versatile and convenient carb, (they literally come in their own packaging) that will boost your muscles and keep your energy levels constant. The yellow-mellow fruit is also rich in potassium and magnesium, two minerals that drop during exercise, making it just as good post-workout to stabilise blood sugar levels.
Another good complex carb is porridge or oats, which provide a slow release of energy before working out and keeping you fuller for longer. Rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre, porridge is also a great post-workout meal that’ll top up those depleted glycogen levels, so you don’t feel faint – or worse, hangry!
3. Sweet potato
Sweet potato is low GI and full of fibre, so you get sustainable energy. It also contains vitamin C, which helps to prevent muscle catabolism, (the breakdown of muscle tissue) and is as delicious in a batch of brownies as they are roasted in olive oil and herbs.
4. Protein (obviously)
A high-quality protein snack is crucial both before and after working out to make sure you’re fueling your session correctly. Protein also helps deliver nutrients and oxygen to your muscles so they can repair and grow into those toned arms and legs you’re working towards. Keep boiled eggs, lean biltong, and low sugar protein bars on hand for that pre/post gym protein fix.
Despite being oh-so-sweet, blueberries are low in sugar and full of water, keeping you hydrated and energised. Added bonus? Blueberries are also rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins that protect the body and skin from oxidation – the primary cause of ageing that is stimulated by exercise.
6. Almond butter
Natural, unsweetened almond butter is the ultimate pre-workout snack because it gives you a healthy dose of both protein and fats in one, deliciously nutty form. Almond butter is also high in calcium and copper, which play a role in brain cell communication and in keeping your nervous system functional, aiding muscle function and helping maintain bone strength – perfect for those super-intense workouts. May we suggest smearing a banana with almond butter? You can thank us later.
Rich and chocolatey, cacao contains caffeine and theobromine, natural stimulants that provide long-lasting energy, which makes it the perfect addition to a pre-workout pick-me-up. It also boosts the brain with dopamine; improving your mood and motivation so you can smash those gains.
Cacao is also an excellent choice for after a workout, as its anti-inflammatory properties help your body recover. We’ll take this hot chocolate cacao drink before, after and during a workout, please and thank you.