Building muscle? Losing weight? Read on for our top tips on how to give your body everything it needs pre and post-workout.
For many people, working out is the easy part. Knowing how to maximise your workout is a whole other thing, it’s tricky to know exactly what to put in your body before you hit the gym or after you’ve smashed that spin class.
Yep, even though you’ve probably heard plenty about how important it is to ‘fuel’ your workout, the most important time to eat is after your workout. In a way, what you consume after a workout is almost a pre-workout meal in itself, as it tees your body up nicely for your next workout. How efficient!
Ideally, you should try and eat within an hour of working out. It’s not ideal not to eat anything after exercise, but your workout won't be a write-off if you don’t eat within that time frame. Here’s what you need to keep in mind when recovering after exercise:
After a workout, you want a meal with a decent amount of carbs and protein in it to help replenish your carbohydrate stores – also known as glucose – and your muscles, which need protein to rebuild after strenuous exercise. Combining the two into one meal can help reduce muscle soreness, increase the rate of muscle glycogen storage, and speed up muscle protein synthesis (better known as ‘making new muscle’).
A good post-workout meal might include a protein source like meat (think chicken, salmon, and tuna), dairy (cottage cheese), eggs, or plant-based sources like quinoa, brown rice, beans, and pulses.
Funnily enough, those plant-based protein sources make for good carbohydrate sources as well, alongside certain fruits (pineapple, berries, banana, and kiwi), oats, potatoes, and pasta.
Huel Powder v3.0 can help. One shake makes for a great post-workout meal as it contains both carbohydrates and protein, and it’s handy for hydration because you can prepare it with water. With more protein and fewer carbs, Huel Black Edition is ideal for anyone who wants a bit more flexibility around their overall carbohydrate intake.
Ever got home from the gym and wolfed down what feels like the world’s biggest bowl of pasta? We’ve all been there.
It’s easy to overestimate how much work you’ve done and it’s equally easy ‘reward’ yourself by eating a huge meal afterwards. Though it might feel like you’ve burned off a million calories during a workout, there’s a good chance you haven’t.
We naturally overestimate our energy expenditure after physical activity and eat far too much to compensate for what we’ve just burned off. A good way to get around this problem is to work out just before breakfast, lunch, or dinner – times when you’d naturally eat larger portions anyway. Oh, and sticking to a ‘quality, not quantity’ approach.
So you might not lose as many calories as you think you do during exercise, but you can bank on losing plenty of water. Whether you’re doing yoga, lifting weights, or pushing through a tough spin class, you’re going to lose water via sweat, which needs to be replaced.
Rather than downing a lot of water after your workout, make sure that you’re hydrated before you exercise, drink while you’re working out, and sip over the hours following your workout.
So it’s important to stress that not all protein shakes are built the same.
Animal or plant-based protein powders that you add water to and mix yourself are OK, but off-the-shelf protein shakes – often found in vending machines inside gyms and leisure centres – usually contain tonnes of sugar.
If you’re on a tight schedule, and it’s going to be a while before you have a substantial protein fix, nuts, seeds, and fruit (including dried fruit) are great on-the-go options.
When we talk about a pre-workout meal, we’re really talking about two separate things – the first is the meal you eat a few hours before you work out (probably breakfast or lunch, unless you’re a very early riser or a night owl), and the second is a snack that you’ll eat less than an hour before you work out.
Nature’s ready-made pre-workout snack, Bananas can (almost) do it all – they’re easily digestible, a great source of carbohydrates (ideal for increasing your body’s glycogen stores), and rich in recovery-assisting nutrients like potassium.
One serving includes about 27g of carbohydrates, and because bananas are naturally sweet, you can even blend some into your Huel without worrying about adding refined sugar.
Not a banana fan? Strawberries, blueberries, and kiwis are all great options.
These might sound like a good idea on paper – oats… grains… what’s not to like? – but these off-the-supermarket-shelf staples often contain loads of sugar. Ultimately, these types of bars are processed foods and not always produced with nutrition in mind, so you can lump these in with salty crisps and sugary sweet treats.
Huel Bars are a nutritionally complete alternative, containing a balanced mix of carbs, proteins, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. They’re also low-GI (Glycemic Index), meaning they’ll release energy slowly, giving you a more sustained boost throughout your workout.
Breakfast is one of the easiest meals to skip or cut out altogether but, for most of us, it’s super-important. After sleeping, your body is naturally low on amino acids and carbohydrates, and you need to replace them before exercising to maximise your workout. Intermittent Fasting diets, in which breakfast can be completely omitted, can be useful when trying to lose weight – read on for our guide to intermittent fasting.
A good-quality protein source – again – is a must (hello eggs), whole rolled oats, banana (again!), fruit (again!), and wholegrain bread are all great options for fuelling your workout.
A substantial breakfast is especially important if you’re working in manual labour, or jobs in which physical activity is part of your daily routine.
So there you have it – just a few things to eat (and avoid) before and after your workouts. But whether it’s leg day, abs day, chest day, or even rest day, Huel is an easy way to give your body everything it needs to train effectively and efficiently.
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