How to properly fuel our body before and after a workout?

How to properly fuel our body before and after a workout?

Suggesting what food to eat before and after exercise is not an easy task as there are so many types of workouts that vary in their intensity, length and purpose. Furthermore, each and every person is different. Some people must eat prior to their workout to get their energy up, while others can't eat at all before exercising. In addition, people have different goals, for example, some people are trying to lose weight whilst others aim to keep fit and healthy.  The following recommendations are mostly for people with normal bodyweight who exercise regularly.

What you eat before and after a workout can have a profound influence on your workout efficiency. Without optimal nutrition, our body will not gain the most out of the training, and will not recover properly.

When we exercise, the muscle tissue goes through significant metabolic changes. Firstly, the blood volume that flows to the muscles increases. Secondly the hormonal state in the body changes, and some hormone levels such as adrenalin and cortisol are elevated. As a result, the body will enter a catabolic (breakdown muscles) state during the workout and anabolic (building muscles) state immediately afterwards. Proper meals before and after exercising will help us make the most from the anabolic state post workout.

What should we eat before a workout?

The purpose of the meal prior to a workout is mainly to provide enough energy to the body. This will help maintain high energy levels throughout the workout and will help to increase blood flow to the muscles.  


Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our activity. They are stored in small amounts inside the muscles and are available to use as the workout commences. Fats on the other hand, are stored in our fatty tissue. Our bodies have the ability to create energy from fats as well. However, the process of breaking down fats and creating energy for our muscles, is a complex process that takes longer and consumes lots of oxygen.

If your routine is to exercise early in the morning, you will benefit from consuming some carbs for dinner the night before, especially those that breakdown slower in our bodies, such as brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, soba noodles and rye bread. If you need to eat something just before you exercise in the morning, you might want to have 1-2 dates or a banana, 10 minutes prior to your training.

Alternatively, if you normally exercise in the evening, then you will benefit from having carbs at lunch time. If you feel you need something to eat just before exercising then choose dates or a banana or even a high quality energy bar.

Eating those simple carbs prior to a workout will minimise the amount of glycogen used during exercise and therefore extend the ability to perform better for a longer time. High levels of glycogen and insulin create a hormonal environment that enables anabolism, which is what we want to achieve after workout.


Recently more and more studies emphasise the importance of consuming protein prior to exercise. Some would say it is even more important than consuming them after the workout. The idea is that we want to increase the flow of blood to the muscles, which is occurring during workout. Eating proteins as part of the meal prior to workout will increase the availability of amino acids to the muscles and will also increase the absorption of amino acids after the workout. That protein shake before a workout is more beneficial to our muscles in opposed to afterwards.

Food to avoid before workout

It is best to avoid foods that are high in fibre. It might make you feeling uncomfortable during a workout, and, it is recommended that you avoid very salty or spicy food that might leave you thirsty and dehydrated, also, avoid very fatty food that might make you feel very heavy and full. 

The 3-4 hours prior to a workout meal

This meal should include some proteins and complex carbohydrates that breakdown slowly and maintain our blood sugar level on a moderate scale, so that we feel balanced, full and exuberant for longer period, without experiencing major ups and downs in our moods and energy levels.

Good meals for instance would be:

  • Oat meal with berries and 1 tsp almond butter.
  • Protein shake - 1/2 scoop + banana and water / almond milk.
  • Rye crackers with hummus (1-2tsp).
  • Grilled chicken sandwich and fresh vegetables.
  • Cooked lentils (1/2 cup) with some brown rice (1/2 cup) and a salad - a good vegan option.

A small snack 10 minutes before you start exercising:

  • Banana
  • Dates 1-2
  • Energy bar (small)

What should we eat after a workout?

To help our body recuperate from the workout, we need to change the metabolic state from catabolic to anabolic. By eating the right types of food we can influence the hormonal balance of the body and allow the desired changes to occur. A fresh supply of carbs, proteins and some fats post workout will help the body renew the damaged tissues and fill up its energy stores.


When we finish our exercise, we have a "window of opportunity" to eat carbs and store them in our muscles as glycogen. When we train next, this storage will be used to create instant energy for our muscles. 

People who exercise on a regular basis, will store the carbs where they are needed, in the muscles. Their body will not store them in the fatty cells, which normally happens in people that are not as active.

In order to restore glycogen storage after the workout you will need to consume approximately 0.7-1.0g carbs per kilo.


During our workout the proteins in our muscles breakdown. In order to help our body recuperate from the workout and prepare it for the next workout session we need to nourish it with some proteins as fast as possible. In fact, we have a "window of opportunity" of one or two hours, from the time we finished our workout, to eat some proteins.

The recommended protein intake per day is 1.6-1.8g per 1 kilo. Remember that our body can't store amino acids properly, which is why we need to eat proteins every 3-4 hours.

Furthermore, it is imperative to know that not all the proteins are digested at the same pace.

The ones that break down in the fastest way are casein protein powders, whey protein powders, soy protein powders and low fat dairy products (Max 3% fat).

  • Next are the white cheeses, cottage cheese, eggs, soy products and canned tuna.
  • The slow ones are the chicken, meat, fish, and fatty cheeses.

A good post workout meal should include the proteins that break down faster, so that they could be utilised properly for building muscles.

On top of that, as we know carbs need the insulin hormone to enter the cells, but did you know that proteins would benefit from the presence of some insulin in the blood? Insulin presence will increase the ability of proteins to enter the muscle cells. So a good post workout meal will include proteins and carbs. Without carbs the insulin will not be secreted from the pancreas.

Good combinations for a post workout meal are:

1.     Cottage cheese and an apple.

2.     Protein shake (1 scoop) with Almond milk some berries and chia seeds.

3.     Tuna sandwich and salad.

4.     Yogurt with berries and some chia seeds and pumpkin seeds.

5.     Vegetable salad, eggs, cheese and whole meal bread.

6.     Stir fry vegetables with tofu and brown rice.

7.     Vegetable soup with some quinoa and chickpeas.

The importance of staying hydrated

Hydration Drinking and keeping your body hydrated is extremely important on the cellular level. Dehydration can prevent muscle growth. Basically you need to drink a minimum of 1ml for every calorie you are consuming.CaffeineCaffeine is found in coffee and other energy drinks. Studies show that if you have caffeine prior to exercising, it will help burn more fat during your workout. Since it takes time for the caffeine to absorb into our blood stream, it’s good to have it 1 hour before the workout. If you prefer coffee with milk then it is better to have it even 1.5 hours before your workout. There is use in having coffee during or a few minutes before your workout. Please keep in mind that coffee will leave you dehydrated so you need to drink more water after having coffee. SummaryOur nutritional choices before and after a workout are crucial if we want to maximise our ability to recuperate from the workout, prepare our body for the next training and building muscles. Prior to a workout we need to include some carbs to minimise glycogen loss and suppress catabolic process. At the same time, it is better if it does not include too much fats. Some of the hormones that our body produces during a workout suppress our appetite. Even though you might not feel hungry after the workout, it is imperative you eat, even just a small meal, but with the right nutrients. The post workout meal needs to include carbs and proteins that are easy to digest.Hydration, of course, is a key factor in all of the above processes. Make sure you drink enough water before during and after workout. 

Thanks to our amazing author, and part of the Nutrition team at UFIT - Noa Harari and UFIT Team

About the author

Noa has been practicing as a Clinical Nutritionist for the last ten years. Her specialties include weight loss, Celiac disease, digestive system problems and metabolic diseases.

Noa understands that no human being resembles another. She believes that each one of us is created differently and has different needs. She recognises that the best way to get long term results is by creating a personalised program for each individual client. 

Catch up with one of Singapore's fittest men - CrossFit Tanjong Pagar's Head Coach Dylan Goddard

CrossFit Tanjong Pagar’s Head Coach, Dylan Goddard was Singapore’s fittest CrossFit athlete in 2015. We managed to get 30 minutes with him to get the inside track on how top athletes prepare themselves physically and mentally for competitions. 

We picked his brains on nutrition, pain management, training and asked him how he sees CrossFit developing in Singapore.

1.     Where did your passion for fitness start?

Straight from Safa land (South Africa). I’ve been in Singapore for five years and always had a passion for health and fitness. Previously I took part in competitive body building for three-four years, grappled with MMA and competitive mountain biking. My real passion for CrossFit started four years ago and really took to competing two-three years from then and I haven’t looked back since. My real passions stem from passing on knowledge to clients at the box, progression in human movement and performance from the moment they start their journey at the box.

2.     What does it take to become one of the fittest men in Singapore?

It all comes down to living a disciplined lifestyle.  I am incredibly driven to constantly improve and by my passion for the sport, so I am able to stay focused and make certain sacrifices.  I am pretty tough on myself to ensure I am always pushing on in strength, mobility and performance.

I live by the 1% rule.  Every time I walk in to CrossFit Tanjong Pagar or any other box around the world, as long as I give 1% more than the day or week before, that’s all that counts.

3.     What gives you the edge?

It comes down to one thing for me - mental strength. I believe that training the brain is a vital component of achieving personal bests. Whether it be a pre-workout meditation, where I focus on the goal and how good it will feel when I achieve it, or having the ability to push past pain barriers in the midst of a tough WoD. 

It’s not just the quantity of training, it is the quality of the work and effort that you give to your sessions. You can only give the best quality if your mind is truly present and alive to the goal.

4. What's your favourite type of training and why?

It’s hard to choose, but I would say endurance based workouts.  I think I am quite mentally tough which helps me to focus and get through pain barriers, often allowing me to get ahead of other competitors.

I also enjoy experimenting with how far I can push my body.

5. How do you get competition ready?

Generally, the workouts are released a few weeks in advance of all competitions. In CrossFit; technique needs to be perfect. Your body adapts to different styles and movements and you need to make sure you are ready to take on those challenges in the most efficient way possible.

 These three steps help me to focus and achieve great results;

  1. Perfecting the technique of the movements in the correct sequence
  2. Trust in your training programme – the hay is already in the barn!
  3. Confidence in your approach – no stress and no cramming!

6. What's the next competition for you?

It’s an awesome Team based competition that CrossFit Tanjong Pagar are stoked for; it’s the Manilla Throwdown on the 4th – 5th November, which is one of the biggest competitions in Asia. We have three really talented teams representing CrossFit Tanjong Pagar.

  • The Dream Team – Daryl Cheng (Singapore 2016 CrossFit Champion) /Trisha Tan and myself Dylan Goddard (Head Coach at CrossFit Tanjong Pagar, CFTP)
  • Triple Jizzle - John Cheah (CFTP Coach), Jordan Fitzpatrick (CFTP Coach) and Jenna Laughlin
  • The A Team – Annie Set,  Evan Partsch and Stefano Scuratti

7. What does it take mentally to focus your mind when you're competing?

There are several steps that help to keep me focused, here are my top three:

  1. Breathing techniques before warming up to reset the mind
  2. Believe in yourself – this is your time to shine
  3. Dealing with the pain before it actually it happens. I re-live past workouts to remember what the pain felt like.  

8. How does your diet change before, during and after a competition?

This depends on the type of competition. For a one-day competition my diet doesn’t change before at all. I tend to stick to my normal regime the night before, and then on the day, I wake up early and have a carb rich breakfast, such as oatmeal and I avoid too much fat.

Throughout the day I make sure I take lots of liquid nutrition, such as a pure carbohydrate sports drink like Gatorade. Due to the Asian climate, I have to be militant about ensuring that my electrolytes are replaced throughout the day with water and Nuun tablets. If I am feeling a bit flat before the competition starts I will usually take a pre workout to get pumped. In the evening I like to enjoy a well-earned BIG FAT meal. 

For multi day events that last between two – three days I stick to the same breakfast. After workouts I refuel with a protein shake, sugar and carbohydrates. Again it is absolutely essential to make sure electrolytes are replaced.  A typical meal will include a rice base with vegetables and protein which will always be fish or chicken.  Sushi, rice, salmon and tuna are foods that we are able to digest really quickly, giving the body maximum time for replenishment and recovery.  I never eat anything I haven’t eaten before and make sure I get enough rest. 

9.     Who and what keeps you motivated and why?

CrossFit competitions are tough! Being able to share the experience and journey with others, helps me keep my form and stay on top of my game. As an individual competitor you’re accountable for only yourself, but as a team competitor you train together which is certainly more fun, and the overall pressure is reduced. I certainly seem to perform a lot better this way.

The motivation I take from CrossFit Tanjong Pagar’s coaches and members, as well as those at our Sister box CrossFit BukitTimah is huge. Seeing members progress, reminds me every day that with a little bit of effort, the results can be astonishing.  Knowing I am representing the box and our communities in competitions keeps me hungry for more.  As we get to the Regionals and Pacifics, I get to stand proud and show what we can do - this is my box, my space and knowing that we’ve built a network and community that inspires us every single day is inspiration itself. 


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

About the Author 

Dylan has worked in the fitness industry for the past 8 years. Having started his career in his home town of Cape Town, South Africa, Dylan has since gained international exposure by making a move to Singapore to pursue his passion of health and fitness. This passion is evident in the way he carries himself in the box, ensuring he gives 110% in all that he does.

Dylan is a qualified personal trainer and holds a National Certificate in Personal Training from the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT), United States. He joined the CrossFit community and hopes to inspire and motivate people in this way of training and living out a healthy, full lifestyle. He has also attained his CrossFit Level 1 Certification.

About CrossFit Tanjong Pagar


CrossFit Tanjong Pagar is Singapore’s leading CrossFit box located in the heart of the CBD. We are proud to boast the largest training facility of its kind, with air-conditioning, top CrossFit certified trainers and a positive environment that helps create a diverse and successful community.


CrossFit Tanjong Pagar was formed solely to provide the best training, coaching, community, and results that Singapore has to offer. Our coaches design and implement functional training programs to strengthen your body, heart, mind, and soul.

Get in touch to take the first steps with your Free Trial, Fundamentals or if you’re in town walk in and say hey we would love to meet you!

UFIT Ladies Night | September

We wined, we dined and then we had a few more... It was about time that us ladies let our hair down, and boy did we have fun! We had a great evening full of laughter hosted by Super Loco at Robertson Quay and supported by some of our partners with prize giveaways. 

A massive thank you goes to our partners and their awesome prizes we had up for grabs. We were joined by the lovely InZone5 ladies Donna & Liz who provided an amazing gift for our lucky piñata. Savvy Sourcing who provided a stylish gift bag of goodies from Bali and a $100 voucher. Not to mention free sports massages from the UFIT Clinic to relax and recover our muscles from Bootcamps. Tricia from The Punch List gave our lucky winner a $300 voucher and our main prize of the night was an awesome two night stay in Bali.

We're so happy you all came to join the fun. Until next time ladies, please enjoy a few of our favourite snaps from the night!