Trying to figure out when, what and how much fit-food you need to achieve your fitness goals? We asked the experts for fit fuel formulas.

Pre-workout fuel

While our bodies need fuel to maintain energy throughout a heavy workout and repair torn muscle can be broadly translated to macronutrient targets, there are subtle factors that influence pre-workout nutrition needs.

“Sports nutrition science provides guidelines for each nutrient, but at the end of the day, it’s what makes the athlete feel best that determines what they will eat,” says nutritionist and personal trainer Tom Fitzgerald.

Both exercise intensity level and body composition goals will inform which food you pick for prep. While carbohydrates are the most accessible and useable source of energy for exercise, the body still uses a mix of all three macronutrients (carbs, fats, protein) at any given time.

How to maximise performance

Before a high-instensity ciruit or resistance based session a meal containing a combination of all three macros, with a slow-release carb source, high quality protein and small amount of fat is necessary, according to Fitzgerald.

Lean meats, carbs such as rice and quinoa, fruit and plenty of water should form the basis of your fit snack, says Fitzgerald.

Food for fat loss

For primarily burning fat and leaning out, low-carb is often the go-to diet choice; carbs, especially simple versions, tend to spike insulin levels, leading to any excess sugars circulating the blood to be shuttled into fat cells and placing a road block to fat loss.

While restricting carbs in the pre-workout meal can be an effective tool for some, IsoW

hey dietitian Belinda Reynolds says it’s important to consume good fats well before training time to support energy and performance.

“Include the medium-chain triglycerides provided by coconut oil as these are the fats that are burnt the most efficiently, or eat oily fish such as salmon or sardines,“ she says.

“Individuals on lower carbohydrate diets should also up their protein to spare muscle breakdown.”

An alternative means to the fat loss end is managing dietary carbohydrate intake over 24 hours. “I rarely use pre-workout meals with my clients who wish to only burn fat, as we can elucidate fat loss by managing nutrition throughout the rest of the day,” says Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald warns that low-carb, high-fat meals should only be consumed before a workout that primarily uses fat for fuel – think steady-state cardio. For workouts with an anaerobic component such as HIIT sprints, which demand ready-carbohydrate, increasing complex carbohydrate intake can boost performance.

What to eat post-workout

Consuming adequate protein within a golden post-workout time can make or break the hard yards you put in on the rack.

“Protein is the most essential macronutrient for muscle recovery,” says Reynolds. “It not only provides the building blocks of muscle tissue to support recovery, but certain amino acids, such as L-lysine, stimulate the enzymes involved in muscle protein synthesis, making them particularly useful at the post-workout stage.”

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that whey and casein protein supplementation resulted in a significant increase in fat-free mass following a resistance-based training program.

Reynolds suggests eating eggs, organic meats, tofu and whey protein powders post-workout to replenish and recover.

Carbohydrates should also be considered at the post-workout stage, especially given its ability to shuttle amino acids to the muscle for adequate repair. According to researched published by the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, a multiple-set bout of resistance training caused a 25 to 45 per cent drop in muscle glycogen, and a 30-second sprint resulted in a 27 per cent drop.

“Carbohydrate intake is important for resynthesising glycogen stores in the muscle and liver tissue,” says Fitzgerald. “Sweet potato mash with a lean protein source is a popular post-workout meal among my clients.”

Model: Erin Pash

NEXT: For more expert tips visit our weight loss section.