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athlete hydrating Photo: Reuters nutrition

Eating right to make your workouts more effective

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Don’t see results that you want? Thinking that your workout is not as effective as it should be? The food that you eat can make all the difference.

According to Singapore Sports Institute’s Associate Sport Dietitian Ang Sin Hwee, eating a meal or snack before exercise can replenish your fuel stores so you can work out harder and longer.

“Ideally, a meal should be consumed 3-4 hours before exercise, or a light snack 1-2 hours before,” said Ang.

“The pre-exercise meal or snack should provide carbohydrate, which is a key fuel source for muscles during exercise,” added Ang, cautioning that starting a workout with low carbohydrate stores can lead to early fatigue and a reduced ability to train hard.

“You might also want to avoid high fat and high fibre foods before exercise. They slow down stomach emptying, and you don't want a bloated stomach before you exercise!”

Besides eating prior to workouts, consuming food after workout can also affect performance and speed of recovery.

Ang cites three key principles – refuel, repair and rehydrate – for recovery.

Refueling involves preparing your body for the next session, so replacing carbohydrate stores is vital.

“If you have an intense session coming up in less than 24 hours, it is critical that you get your recovery meal within the first hour of finishing your exercise.”

For those who are targeting weight loss, Ang suggests to “plan for your main meal (eg. lunch or dinner) to be consumed straight after exercise, so that you don't have to include additional post workout snacks.”

Reparation involves consuming protein to provide the body with amino acids needed to repair muscles and promote muscle growth.

“Although protein requirements vary between individuals, consuming 20-25g protein soon after exercise helps to maximise the muscle rebuilding and repair process.”

Rehydration is extremely crucial for hot and humid climates like Singapore, as fluid and electrolyte losses can be significant.

“You continue to lose fluids and electrolytes through sweat and urine even after finishing your session, so aim to replenish losses by 150 per cent.

“In practice, if you are one kg lighter after your workout, you need to drink 1.5 L over the next two to six hours. If sweat rates are high, include a source of electrolytes to help the body rehydrate more effectively.”

Here are some meal suggestions that you can follow for your workout regime:

Pre-workout meal ideas (3-4 hours prior):

- Pasta (tomato-based/aglio olio style)/ Rice/ Baked potato or sweet potato with lean meat and salad 

- Sandwich or wraps with tuna/ egg/ lean meat with salad 

- Baked beans and egg on toast 

- Muesli with milk and fruit

Pre-workout snack ideas (1-2 hours prior): 

- Fresh fruit 

- Tub of yoghurt 

- Muesli Bar 

- Fruit bun

Rehydration beverages: 

- Water 

- Milk

For those of you who do not have a lot of time to cook, our resident sport dietitian suggests wholegrain wraps with roast chicken or tuna and salad – which are quick and easy to prepare.

Simply purchase wraps, ready-made roast chicken or tuna cans and your choice of salad vegetables (baby spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, capsicums). Assemble them all in wrap, topped with some grated cheese, and a healthy and delicious meal is settled!

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