Whether you're an avid yogi or a dedicated runner, it’s easy to feel evangelical about your exercise routine - but just how much attention should you be paying to pre and post-workout foods?
Doing so can drum up a whole host of queries i.e. Will you ruin the benefits of your 10km run if you follow it up with a cheeseburger and chips? Will gorging on a peanut butter-laden protein shake really help your muscles recover after a spinning class? And can beer really have the same effect as sports drinks?
While some personal trainers will swear by sweetened smoothies and supplements, others will advocate fasted training i.e. working out on an empty stomach in order to jump-start fat burning as opposed to using up energy on digestion.
When it comes to fuelling and recovering from a workout, the advice is as extensive as it is conflicting and largely depends upon your goals, but what are some of the foods you should avoid at all costs?
According to personal trainer Toby Huntington-Whiteley, who is based at boxing gym Kobox in London, an absolute pre-workout no-no is indulging in large portions and high fat foods.
This can be tough on the digestive system, he adds, not to mention the inevitable discomfort attached to exercising on a full stomach.
According to leading Harley Street nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert, one of the most common pre-workout misconceptions is relying on sports drinks for energy, which she explained can contain as much as two-thirds of the sugar as some soft drinks.
Despite lucrative marketing campaigns featuring buff models and lithe-limbed celebrities, supplements are no better either, she added: “no matter how effective, they can never replace a healthy lifestyle with real food, exercise and good sleep,” the nutritionist and author told The Independent.
Instead, Lambert advises hydrating with water prior to working out while Huntington-Whiteley suggests opting for a light meal an hour or so beforehand, ideally something containing both carbs and protein such as a smoothie.
A shot of coffee or green tea can also be beneficial pre-workout, he added, as it will help boost metabolism and provide a hit of antioxidants, he told The Independent.
As for post-workout eating, it’s crucial to refuel properly in order to aid muscle recovery, Lambert explains.
However, she pointed out that refuelling with carbohydrates is just as important as doing so with protein.
“This combination will help you rebuild your muscle proteins and glycogen stores in addition to stimulating the growth of new muscle,” she said.
While some sports nutritionists advocate drinking alcohol post-workout - yes, really - both Lambert and Huntington-Whiteley believe this is best to be avoided.
Despite studies claiming beer has a recovery effect on par with some sports drinks, both experts stress that the brewed beverage will do little to help hydration levels, not to mention its distinct lack of nutritional value in comparison to a fruit and vegetable-laden protein shake.
As for timing, Lambert advises eating within 45 minutes of finishing your workout.
“Your body’s ability to rebuild glycogen and protein is enhanced after you workout,” she said.
Foods such as quinoa, eggs, oats and cottage cheese are all good protein and carb-rich options.
However, the most important thing to have both pre and post-workout is undoubtedly the simplest: water.
It’s crucial to replenishing the fluids and electrolytes you will sweat out while exercising, in addition to keeping you well-hydrated, Lambert said.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies