Department of Health & Human Services
Premiers Active April

Healthy eating for exercise

We all know the benefits of eating a balanced diet everyday, but when it comes to exercise there are some simple things we can do to get the most out of a workout.

Whether you’re a casual exerciser, fitness fiend or looking for tips to fuel active kids, Nutrition Australia has your healthy eating covered.

Casual exercisers

If you enjoy a few exercise sessions a week and you’re looking at upping the kilometres in Active April, here are some quick tips to get you started.

Prefuel and refuel with wholefoods

Have a snack or small meal about 1.5 – 2 hours before activity, and 30 – 60 minutes after. Go for a combination of protein (for muscle function) and carbohydrates (for energy), such as toast with nut spread, wholegrain cereal with milk, a grainy muesli bar, sandwich, or fruit and yoghurt.

Time your food around your training

There’s no need to add extra foods to your day if you time your normal meals and snacks around your exercise sessions. Aim for the above, but do what feels right according to your individual taste, your digestion and the type of exercise you’re doing.

Drink water before, during and after exercise

Save sports drinks for times when you exercise for longer than 90 minutes, at very high intensities or in hot weather. Milk is another good option after exercise as it contains a balance of hydrating electrolytes, plus carbohydrates and protein.

Skip the supplements

Protein is important after a workout for muscle repair, but unless you’re on a special training plan most of us get enough protein from our everyday diet. Protein drinks and powders are unnecessary and can be expensive.

Fitness fiends

For those training 6-7 times per week or more, these tips are a general guide:

Ensure you’re eating enough

You need to replace the energy you burn in training which will help your muscles grow and recover. The Australian Government’s ‘Eat for Health’ website has a simple online calculator to help you work out your individual energy needs.

Eat regularly

Keep up your energy for training and competition. Try to have a meal or snack every 2.5 – 3 hours to stay satiated and maintain energy balance.

Keep hydrated

Drink plenty of water or choose a sports drink for training and events that last longer than 90 minutes. Ensure your urine is clear or a pale straw colour – anything darker indicates dehydration!

Recover with a carb + protein combo

Aim for around 10g of protein and 15g of carbohydrates from whole foods such as dairy, fruit, nuts, lean meats, eggs and wholegrain foods.

Don’t worry about the 30 minute ‘window of opportunity’

If your sessions are more than 12 hours apart (for example, regularly training in the morning and not the afternoon), the energy and nutrients you ingest throughout the day matter more than the 30 minute window either side.

Keeping active kids going

Fuel your kids’ active minds and bodies with these simple steps:

Choose core foods

Lollies and sweet treats don’t provide all the nutrients kids need after exercise, so refuel them with some simple whole foods instead. Easy options include a piece of fruit, a drink of milk, a wholemeal savoury muffin, cheese and grainy crackers, or even veggies and a delicious dip.

Rethink sugary drinks

Water is the best drink to keep kids hydrated, so keep a refillable bottle handy, and save the sports drinks for very high intensity activity or hot days.

Build healthy bones

Physical activity and calcium go hand-in-hand to help build strong bones during the crucial period of adolescence. A glass of milk, a tub of yoghurt and 2 slices of cheese provide 3 of their recommended 2-4 serves of dairy a day (or calcium-fortified alternatives).

Don’t forget iron

Active kids are prone to ‘jarring’ activities that involve running or jumping on hard surfaces and can contribute to iron loss. Eating iron dense foods like red meat, legumes and iron-fortified products can help. Find out how much we need each day and good sources of iron on the Nutrition Australia resource page.

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Last updated: November 28, 2016 at: 12:10 pm

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