The Power of Nutrition: Pre & Post Training Guide

Facing the dilemma of “To eat or not to eat” before a work out?

There are countless studies both for and against eating before a work out. There no one size fits all answer for this question, as it simply depends on your body’s cortisol and insulin response.

Studies have found that exercising in a fasted state when insulin is at its baseline level induces both lipolysis and fat oxidation. In other words it breaks down fat cells, and body’s utilisation of free fatty acids for energy [1].

So, would simply switching the timing of training bring on the desirable lean and toned body? Turns out that exercising on empty, while it helps burn fat, also increases muscle break down. This metabolic combination can result in a “skinny fat” physique. Many people find that exercising on empty can compromise their energy and focus throughout work outs.

Who is fasted exercise not suitable for?

If you experience hypoglycaemia (sudden drops in blood sugar levels) and are stressed, the body’s cortisol levels drive spikes and drops in insulin levels. This causes sudden energy slumps, dizziness and muscle break down due to overworked adrenal glands. To get the most out of your work out have a light snack about 45 minutes before exercising.

Enjoy 1 serving of easily digestible carbohydrates such as:

  • 1/2 cup papaya
  • 1/2 banana
  • a handful of berries

By having a small amount of carbohydrates in your system your blood sugar levels and insulin tend to remain stable and fuel your work out, so you can burn more calories throughout your training.
Hydration is often the culprit for a lack of energy, whether physical or mental. So start your work out well hydrated and drink about 500 mL of filtered good quality water during training.

A word on supplements:


This amino acid compound is activated with movement as it accesses stored fat and transports it into the muscle for immediate energy, hence inducing lipolysis. It was also found to burn visceral fat, i.e. stubborn belly fat, when used on a regular basis [2]. The key to this nutrient is timing and dosage. From personal experience, Carnitine works best at a dose of 3 g per day in divided doses: 2 g 10 minutes before training and 1 g 10 minutes before lunch. I personally like the Bioceuticals Acetyl L Carnitine in capsule form.

Green tea

It is no coincidence that cultures which enjoy this beverage on a regular basis, reap the benefits of a healthy weight. According to International Journal of Obesity [3], EGCG catechins in green tea instigate thermogenesis, in other words aid in fatty acid oxidation. Green tea assists detoxification of the liver – the seed of fat burning. To top it off the strong antioxidant effect makes the humble green tea a great energy booster before your workouts.

What to avoid:
Excessive amounts of caffeine, anything above 150 mg caffeine equivalent to roughly two cups of coffee, can stress your adrenal glands, elevate cortisol, leading to muscle breakdown and fat retention.

Electrolyte drinks Unless you are an endurance athlete and engage in training sessions that are longer than 2 hours, electrolyte drinks filled with sugar are not doing anybody’s waist line any favours.

Best post work out foods

Day after day I encounter people, especially women, who in the name of weight loss skip their post training meal. Reality is within 1 hour after training the body is more sensitive and receptive to nutrients and insulin.

It is vital to include:

  • Protein to aid in muscle recovery and boost calorie burning at rest
  • Small amount of carbohydrates – replenish glycogen stores and boost feel good neurotransmitter production
  • Foods rich in iron and Vitamin C – to improve oxygenation of tissues
  • Good quality salt, magnesium and potassium

My favourite post work out meals include:

  • Protein shake with: Iso Whey, blueberries, handful of kale and coconut water
  • Scrambled Eggs: organic eggs, 1 tsp coconut oil, mushrooms, spinach, salmon and roasted pumpkin
  • Grass fed beef stir fry with cauliflower rice, carrot and Asian greens

[1] How to Lose Fat Faster With Fasted Cardio (and Keep Your Muscle)
[2] The Effect of L-Carnitine and Isoflavone Supplementation on Weight Reduction
[3] Green tea and thermogenesis
[4] University of Minnesota Mark Johnson, RD, LD, Nutrition Graduate Student, Reviewer: Marla Reicks, PhD, RD, LN, Professor, Dept. Food Science and Nutrition, Nutrition guide for the Athlete


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