Workout Prep and Recovery: What to Eat and Drink and When


Sometimes it’s hard enough getting to the gym that we don’t pause long enough to think about what we need to do the prep ourselves before we get there, or how to help ourselves out after. To make your trip to the gym less stressful, we’ve compiled our favourite pre and post workout snacks and sips that will keep you at the top of your game.

Before you leave the house: Consider these drinks and superfoods as important as your warm-up

1. Coconut Water or Pure Water

When should I drink? Drinking water throughout the day versus minutes before a workout will help to prevent a washy feeling, cramping or nausea during your workout. Downing a litre of water followed by a downward facing dog movement during a yoga class is not going to be pleasant!

Benefits: It is essential for any workout that you keep yourself sufficiently hydrated throughout the day to keep your body constantly hydrated. You’ll experience better performance, less cramped muscles, and feel better during your workout.

2. Maca Powder

What is it? Maca is a root vegetable that grows in the Peruvian Andes at very high altitudes. It is most commonly used to help with stamina, energy, vitality, sexual function, hormone balancing and fertility. Maca is considered naturally rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc, and contains 10% high-quality protein.

How should I use it? To use pre workout for an added boost, add to smoothies, protein shakes, or energy snack balls, or add to your morning muesli or porridge and consume at least an hour before your workout.

Benefits: Many studies have found that maca strengthens the body and helps maintain stamina and endurance, as well as increasing stamina by increasing oxygen levels in the blood. Maca also works as an adaptogen, helping individuals to cope better with stress both physical and mental.

3. Coconut Oil

When should I have it? It can be easily added to a pre-workout smoothie an hour or so before your workout. How should I have it? Try Organic Burst’s recipe for a post workout smoothie, combining easily digestible protein and fat by blending together a handful of spinach, a teaspoon of Spirulina, a teaspoon of coconut oil, ½ an avocado or ½ a banana for sweetness with a cup of water and drink at least 60 minutes before your workout.

Some people even find a teaspoon mixed into green tea, or even eating it straight off the spoon does the trick.

Benefits: Coconut oil is a source of MCT fats which are excellent for energy. These medium-chain fatty acids are burned almost immediately for the production of energy, allowing your body to perform better with higher energy output and greater endurance levels.

4. Protein Powder

When should I have it? Optional pre and/or post workout

Why should I use it? Protein is an important factor in all diets, especially when it comes to sports nutrition. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a body builder or triathlon runner to benefit from added protein to your diet, nor will you bulk up like the hulk! Instead, you will feel more energy, better control over your blood sugar levels and a faster recovery after your workout.

How should I use it? Getting your protein from whole food is always the best option in my opinion, but sometimes it is more convenient to up your intake in the form of protein powder when time restraints are pressing or you want convenience.

Adding a scoop of your preferred protein powder to a glass of water or milk, into a smoothie or even mixed into a yogurt can really boost your protein levels, helping to keep your blood sugars stable and allow for increased stamina and energy throughout your workout.

Simply adding a scoop into your pre-workout shake or smoothie will give your muscles the nutrients; energy and boost that they need to keep on going and avoid a burn out half way through your workout.

How do I add it into my diet?

Personally when I’m in a hurry, I like to add a scoop of Protein Powder into a shaker of Coconut Milk and drink that before a workout if I have limited time between my last meal and my exercise class or yoga. If I have access to a blender I may throw in some frozen berries and a banana, or even just some ice.

Post workout I often turn to a green smoothie, though you can of course consume this at least an hour before your workout to give you energy and essential nutrients.

My green smoothie generally includes:
1 frozen banana
Handful of cashew nuts/almonds
1 scoop protein powder
1-2 tsp greens powder (sometimes I chose a blend such as supergreens blend, other times I go for just barley grass or spirulina)
Topped up with water or coconut water to desired texture.
Optional – you could add chia seeds, maca, bee pollen or any super food you like

What to pack in your bag: Runners? Check. Headphones? Check. Coconut water? Check.

1. Electrolytes

When should you have them? During and just after you work out

What are they? Electrolytes are mineral salts that include sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. These effect how the muscle functions and also help to balance fluid levels in the body. It is important to keep these levels balanced during a workout and especially afterwards after all the fluid loss through sweating.

Where can I find them? A good source of electrolytes comes from coconut water, so throw a bottle into your gym bag for your next workout and see how you feel!

2. Antioxidants

When should you have them? Post workout is an optimal time to re-hydrate and flush out the build-up of toxins created by exercise.
During a workout, your body produces a lot of extra free radicals as a result of strenuous exercise. In order to counteract this, you need to boost your antioxidant levels after a workout.

Where do I find them? A lot of delicious foods contain antioxidants, but one main player in particular known as Acai can give you a huge boost of them just when you need them.

How should I take them? Acai powder is incredibly rich in antioxidants and has an ORAC score of 70,000! (3x higher than goji berries and 10x higher than blueberries).
It is also choc-full of polyphenols and essential fatty acids 3,6 and 9 making them brilliant for overall nutrition as well as a beauty supplement. Acai can be added to post smoothies or shakes, or pre or post workout energy balls.

Benefits: Aside from flushing out toxins, antioxidants help to protect your health by protecting cells from damage and keep disease at bay.

What to indulge in when you get home: Snack to the max without guilt.

Natural Sugar

What should I eat? Your body utilises sugar much better after exercise so now is the time you can include natural sugar-rich dates, bananas, honey, maple syrup etc. to replace your stores if you wish. Of course, we only recommend this in moderation and in combination with your healthy balanced meal of choice!

You could also opt for including sweet potatoes, beets, carrots or sugar snap peas post workout instead if you’re not looking to add such sweetness from fruits and natural syrups.

Benefits: After a workout, your body is in need of a refuel. Your body is also now on the hunt for sugar to replace its stores, therefore now is a good time to have your higher sugar content shakes or smoothies.

3. Spirulina

What is it? Spirulina is a blue-green algae rich in chlorophyll and packed with protein, all the essential amino acids, vitamins A, B Complex, C, D, and E, potassium, iron and other trace minerals.

Why should I use it? After a workout your body becomes more acidic as your muscles become loaded with lactic acid, therefore it is good to re-alkalise the body after a workout to move out the acidity and bring the body back to balance.

How should I take it? Try adding a teaspoon of spirulina pre and post workout in a glass of water with a big squeeze of lemon one hour before working out, then take the same dose immediately after exercise. This will help re-alkalise the body as well as giving it a natural protein hit.

Alternatively if the taste is not to your liking you can add a teaspoon into a shake or smoothie with a banana (frozen bananas are great at masking the taste of spirulina) with a milk alternative such as rice, coconut or oat.

4. Protein

When should I have it? Preferably within 15-30 minutes of your workout.

What does it help with? Exercise puts a strain on our muscles, meaning they need to recover to prevent injury, damage or discomfort. Adding protein post workout helps your body to rebuild, recover and strengthen.

Protein is made of important amino acids that are the building blocks necessary to help repair any wear and tear on your muscles after exercise as well as helping to build and sustain muscle.

Eating protein at every meal stabilizes your blood sugar levels, aids weight management, moods and benefits the health of the nervous system.

What kind of protein should I have? It is important to choose the right kind of protein. The best protein comes from eating whole food, found in both plant and animal sources.
Plant-based protein sources include sprouted nuts, seeds including chia seeds, hemp seeds, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, legumes, sprouts, avocado and quinoa.
The best sources of animal protein include grass fed meat, chicken, seafood, organic eggs, and natural or greek yoghurt.

Protein powder options include but are not limited to rice, pea, hemp and whey.
Please be aware of the ingredients of the protein powders you see on the shelves, noting that simple is often best, with pure blends being the best options. Look for sprouted or raw options, or those with no funny weird ingredients you can’t pronounce.

– Emily

Twitter: @NourishStores

*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention.