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What to eat before and after exercise

When it comes to maintaining your physical health, nutrition and exercise go hand in hand.

Not only does having a nutritious snack before exercise give you all the energy you need but eating after exercise can also help your muscles recover.

Let’s take a look at some food and drinks we can consume before, during and after exercise to help our bodies run effectively.

Before exercise

Our bodies rely on carbohydrates as the main source of energy. When we consume foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruit, bread, pasta or rice, our bodies convert this into a simple sugar called glucose that is used for energy. Before we undertake exercise, it can be helpful to consume a high carbohydrate meal or snack, so our bodies have enough glucose available to complete the exercise. Be careful of eating too closely before exercise though – wait one to two hours between eating and exercising to avoid some uncomfortable side effects! (1)

Examples of some high carbohydrate foods to eat before exercise are:

  • cereal
  • a fruit smoothie
  • a piece of raisin toast
  • a small bowl of pasta

During exercise

While you’re exercising, the most important thing to remember is to stay hydrated! The best way is to sip on water. Sports drinks are not necessary for short periods of low to moderate exercise, and they often contain lots of added sugar. If you’re exercising for longer than 60 to 90 minutes, having a small snack that provides a quick release of sugar may help sustain energy levels. (2)

The best snacks to help you get that quick release of energy are low fibre, low fat foods that are quick to digest, such as muesli, fruit bars or bananas.

After exercise

Carbohydrates and proteins are important after exercise. Protein helps restore your muscles after physical activity, while carbohydrates replace the glucose that was used during exercise. (3) Try some of these meal and snack ideas after your next bout of exercise:

  • yoghurt and muesli—give our Raspberry and Yoghurt Bircher Muesli recipe a go
  • a salad roll with lean chicken or turkey
  • protein balls


Raspberry and Yoghurt Bircher Muesli

Serves: 2

Raspberry and Yoghurt Bircher Muesli served in a glass.


  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • 125ml reduced fat milk (OR soy, rice, dairy)
  • 1 small apple (grated)
  • 1 tbsp pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 tbsp orange juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1⁄2 tsp orange rind (finely grated)
  • 100g raspberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 100g low-fat natural yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp pistachios (chopped)


  1. Combine oats, milk, apple, pepitas and orange juice in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Stir orange rind through muesli, divide between serving bowls and top with fresh raspberries, a dollop of yogurt and pistachios.


  1. Sports Dietitians Australia. Eating and drinking before exercise.
  2. Sports Dietitians Australia. Eating and drinking during exercise.
  3. Sports Dietitians Australia. Recovery Nutrition.


Last updated: July 20, 2021 at: 11:53 am