Whether you are a competitive athlete, play a sport on the weekend or simply enjoy engaging in daily physical activity, you can improve your performance and meet your needs with a nutritious, well-balanced diet.
Some of the nutrition fundamentals to consider asking yourself prior to engaging in physical activity are:
- are you consuming enough energy, protein, and other nutrients to meet the physicals demands of the activity;
- are you energised, or sore / sluggish during / after participating in the activity;
- are you including a variety of foods from the 5 food groups in your diet: wholegrains and cereals, vegetables, fruits, lean meats and alternatives, dairy and alternatives;
- are you staying hydrated?
What people tolerate before and after exercise generally differs from person to person.
Before engaging in physical activity
- Prioritise carbohydrates for energy
- When eating closer to the activity e.g. one hour to 30 mins before, aim for an easily digestible source such as a banana or white bread with honey. This will give you a quick source of energy whilst reducing digestive upset.
- Limit fat and fibre
- Foods higher in fibre and fat take longer for our bodies to breakdown, which may cause us to feel sluggish or have an upset stomach during activity.
- Ensure you are well hydrated
- Ensure you drink enough water and are well hydrated before engaging in physical activity.
You should trial different foods to see what sits best and makes you feel energised and ready to go.
Quick and easy meals and snack ideas for pre-physical activity
- Yogurt and fruit salad
- Pasta with a tomato-based sauce
- Toast / crumpet / muffin with jam or honey
- Low-fat creamed rice
- Banana smoothie with honey and low-fat milk
After engaging in physical activity
- Consume both carbohydrates and protein to aid with muscle repair, and to replace energy stores.
- Aim for a well-balanced meal with a variety of vegetables to help your body and immune system recover.
Quick and easy meals and snack ideas for post-physical activity
- Yogurt, muesli and fruit salad
- Spaghetti bolognese with zucchini and carrot
- Chicken / tuna / tofu salad sandwich
- Fried rice with egg, mixed veggies, and chicken / tofu
- Berry smoothie, milk and yoghurt or flavoured milk
Keep in mind that different individuals, and the type of physical activity they are engaging in will affect their energy and nutrient needs. As a starting point, aiming for a well-rounded balanced diet with a few of the considerations above will help set you up for success.
Want to know more about your individual requirements? Seek support from an Accredited Practicing Dietitian.