What to Eat & Drink Before & After Exercise

What to Eat & Drink Before & After Exercise

I’m currently training for my first 5K adventure race in June (the Zest Challenge!), which has inspired this mini series of blog posts in which I’ll be covering everything; from what to wear, to how to train (thanks to a few personal trainers!).

In this post though I’ll be giving you my top tips on what to eat and drink before and after training/exercise and also race day. 5K events usually tend to be in the morning so bear this in mind when setting your alarm clock  ;).

P.S If you’re training for anything longer than a 5K then it’s worth checking out my what to eat and drink before endurance exercise blog post too.



My Top Tips:

  • You don’t NEED to ‘Fuel Up’ – If you’re working out at a moderate pace for less than an hour then you don’t actually need to eat any extra food, especially if your ultimate goal is weight loss. Your body has natural energy reserves in the muscles and also liver which means that you can exercise in a ‘fasted state’. I personally work-out in a morning Monday to Friday and prefer an extra 1-2 hours sleep than to get up to fuel my body for a 20-30 minute training session!
  • Find out your Ideal Pre-Run Meal or Snack – Despite the above, the right food can enhance your performance and help you to feel more energised. I highly recommend doing ‘practice runs’ prior to your race event so you can plan your ‘pre-run meal’ or ‘pre-run snack’. Ideally you should have an easy to digest, low GI carb-based meal at least 2 hours before hand (low GI means it releases its energy slowly). The meal should be around 300-400 calories and could be any of the following: 2 x wholemeal toast with honey & banana, porridge with cinnamon & apple sauce (which is easier to digest than dried fruit such as raisins), strawberry & banana protein smoothie or a banana and peanut butter smoothie.
  • Snack Time – If you can’t get up 2 hours before a run (even on race day!) then have a light carb-based snack at least 60 mins before hand such as a banana. Bananas have a low GI and are packed with potassium, an electrolyte which you lose when you sweat.
  • Get the Kettle on – Caffeine has been shown to improve both endurance and strength during a work-out (one of the reasons being that it reduces your perception of pain and tiredness). Have one cup of coffee, or two cups of tea 30-60 minutes before hand to allow time for the caffeine to absorb. I’m not a huge coffee fan however with some stevia and milk I manage to drink a small cup quickly (1 tsp of coffee in 100ml water!). You could also try my Mocha Protein Shake with an extra tsp of coffee thrown in.. *yum*
  • Stay Hydrated – Make sure that you’re adequately hydrated before any type of exercise. You should aim to drink between 2-3 litres of fluid a day if you’re exercising, but an easy way to tell if you’re adequately hydrated is to check the colour of your pee – if it’s a pale straw colour then you’re good to go but if it’s dark then you need to drink more (everything counts – water, fruit juice, squash, tea or coffee). You should decide if you want to carry water with you during your race; during the Zest Challenge I won’t be able to take water with me so have decided to do my practice runs without it either – I just make sure that I’m adequately hydrated before hand and re-hydrate afterwards..
  • Replenish your Stores – After a run you should aim to replace fluid losses i.e. drink water (check out my endurance blog if you’re working out for more than an hour as water may not be enough) and refuel with both protein to help your muscles to grow and repair, and carbs to replace lost fuel and enhance your immune system (carbohydrates have been shown to reduce the stress hormone response to exercise). Try a bowl of cereal with milk, a fruit smoothie (e.g. a strawberry & banana protein smoothie), healthy waffles with Greek yoghurt or peanut butter/PB2 on granary toast. For optimal recovery eat within thirty minutes of finishing your work-out.

water glass

I hope these tips help you decide what to eat and drink both before and after your work-outs.. the most important thing really though is to test out your pre-exercise snacks NOW.. and stick to the same thing on race day. Never eat anything new on race day because you just won’t know how your body is going to react to it. Some runners prefer a liquid breakfast for ease of digestion i.e. a shake or smoothie but the same thing won’t work for everyone – so just try it and see!


P.S A healthy diet throughout your training schedule is essential to maintain health (and keep those nasty bugs away) so make sure to eat 5-9 portions of fruit and vegetables a day  (a portion is a handful) and keep your meals balanced – aim for 1/3 of your plate to be low GI or wholegrain carbs e.g. oats, wholemeal pasta, basmati rice, sweet potato or quinoa, 1/3 of your plate to be vegetables, fruit or salad and a 1/3 of your plate to be lean protein e.g. fish, chicken, turkey, milk, eggs, Greek yoghurt or lentils. . and you can still have your ‘treats’… it’s allowed in the 80:20 rule remember!! 😉


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  1. November 9, 2013 / 9:47 pm

    After a workout I usually drink a protein shake. You also need to replenish your fluids, however if your workout was long and intense you also need to think about replenishing your electrolytes!

    • November 10, 2013 / 8:36 am

      Yes! Check out my what to have after endurance exercise post for more info 🙂

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