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Nutrition in exercise recovery

August 15, 2023
5 min
Members Only

This month at Enrich, our theme is Commit. We have done lots of work this year exploring our whys, and developing our vision of a well-balanced life with wellbeing at its core. Now, let’s drill down on how to set yourself up to make these goals a reality, and go into this second half of the year feeling strong.

One common stumbling block when it comes to establishing and committing to a regular movement habit is not knowing what or when to eat to best support your energy levels and performance. There is a wealth of information available, which can at times be confusing or contradictory. Is it better to train fasted? Do you need huge amounts of protein to build muscles? We are here to cut through the noise and help you to feel your best, as what you eat can definitely have a big impact on your performance.

Of course, if you have particular goals in mind or specific considerations for your sport, your nutrition needs will look slightly different. However, the below guidelines will be helpful for most people who want to fuel their body and move in a way that feels good.

Before getting into the specifics, we should remember that the most important thing when considering nutrition for exercise is our overall diet. A well-balanced diet rich in wholegrains and quality proteins forms a strong foundation for any movement habit. We need to make sure that we are eating enough, from all food groups, to support what we are asking our bodies to do. Furthermore, our muscles do not grow from consuming protein alone, but from our overall energy consumption. So if you want to see any results from hard work in the gym, make sure you are eating enough!

You might be wondering why it is even important to consider our nutrition when it comes to movement. Getting these basics right can help to maintain your blood glucose concentration to provide you with sustained energy, maximise your performance ability (i.e. make you feel strong and energetic, able to do what you want),and reduce or improve recovery time, all of which can contribute to a sustainable lifestyle.

There are some specific considerations that can help you to make the most of your workout, so read on to find out more!

Before exercising:

Try to eat a meal which contains carbohydrates approximately 2 hours before exercise. Preferably this would include wholegrain carbohydrates, as they provide a slower, sustained release of energy. Even if you prefer to workout first thing in the morning, you will be setting yourself up for success by fuelling your body. If it’s hard to stomach a full meal, considering trying a fruit smoothie with oats, which can be easier to digest.


- The sugars that form carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. They are stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen and are released into the bloodstream during exercise to fuel your muscle tissues. If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, your body’s ability to exercise may be impacted as you do not have sufficient energy stores.

Do not consume foods that are likely to upset your stomach and limit the amount of saturated fats and protein in the hours before your exercise.


- A meal that is high in protein, fats or even high amounts of fibre can be difficult to digest. This can change depending on your personal preferences, but for most people a carbohydrate-rich meal is easier on the digestive system.            


After exercising:

Firstly, you need to consider your hydration levels. You will most likely have lost fluid during exercise, and it is important to replenish this as soon as possible. Plain water is the best way to restore hydration.

After your workout, your body will need to replenish its glycogen stores and rebuild muscles. This is particularly important with high-intensity exercise, as this is quite demanding on your energy stores.  To help your body restore glycogen and enhance muscle protein synthesis, try to consume a meal which contains both carbohydrates and protein. This is best within two hours of exercising.

Protein is of course important when considering nutrition for exercise, but it is not necessary to consume a high amount of protein directly after exercise to get the benefits. It has been shown to be more beneficial to spread your protein intake over the whole day. This looks like including around 20-40g of protein at every meal, to really maximise muscle growth and repair.

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