Nicky Park: Exercising and eating, what works best?

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There's no magic meal to boost your work-out, but grab a piece of fruit if you're peckish.
Photo / Thinkstock
There's no magic meal to boost your work-out, but grab a piece of fruit if you're peckish. Photo / Thinkstock

I don't like the feeling of food in my belly right before I work up a sweat. It makes moving harder, my energy levels lull and it can even make me feel a bit queasy.

Post work-out, I like to walk home from the gym which means I won't be eating anything for at least 40 minutes. When I was dragging my weary post-pump class bones up Franklin Road recently, I was wondering what the best exercise/eating practice is.

Personal trainer and nutritionist, Jacquie Dale, says the biggest focus should be on your "base diet" - that is, all the stuff you usually put in your body day-to-day. One of the biggest mistakes people make is not supplying themselves with enough calories to support the work they're doing.

"Work out how much you should be eating for what you're doing and distribute that throughout the day," Dale says.

People tend to go light on the eating in the AM, the Auckland-based expert says. That means that when the afternoon rolls around, so too do visits to the vending machine, massive lunch-time meals and feelings of sluggishness.

Dale recommends pacing yourself. Think of it like this: "Every meal is topping up your energy levels."

Once your base diet is balanced, mustering up the motivation to get moving will be much easier, she says. In order to get the most out of your work-out, Dale recommends avoiding eating for about an hour-and-a-half to two hours beforehand. This will prevent those unsettling feelings in your stomach. There's no "magic meal" to get you pumped, but a caffeine hit can help with energy levels, Dale says. If caffeine isn't your thing, a piece of fruit is a good option.

It's after training that you need to think about reaping the rewards for all that hard work! For about an hour you're gifted with a "window of opportunity", Dale says. Ideally, get in some protein - meat, tofu, dairy and eggs are great - and replenish the muscles that you've just punished. Obviously get in lots of water and avoid fat - it won't do your body any favours.

"48 hours after training, that's when our body's becoming a better body and that's based on our diet," Dale says.

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What eating and exercise routines do you have? What do you like to snack on before and after exercise?

Nicky Park

Editor of Life & Style.

Nicky lives to wine, dine and thrive. As Life & Style Editor at the New Zealand Herald online, she feels lucky she can call this work. Nicky crafted her writing skills as a cadet for an Australian news wire. Amongst the coverage of sport, news, finance and courts she found a favourite in features. A stint as a foreign correspondent sent this chipper Aussie across the Tasman, covering the big issues of the Pacific Islands. Every single day Nicky relishes the opportunities she has to mix and mingle with interesting people, feast on delicious food, visit new places and write all about it. Nicky wants everyone to make the most of their minutes, learn lots and live their best life.

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