Blog Post

Dietitian’s Quick Guide to Training Nutrition: Fuel Your Performance And Enhance Recovery

Whether you’re an athlete or simply someone who loves to exercise, paying attention to your nutrition around training can make a significant difference in maximizing your performance and optimizing recovery. In this dietitian’s guide, we’ll explore the basics of training nutrition and how you can take your training and recovery to the next level.

Pre-Training: Power Up with Carbohydrates

pre training nutrition

Before your training session, it’s crucial to ensure you have enough fuel in the tank to sustain your performance. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel, so they should be your main focus during this time.

Ideally, aim for a high-carbohydrate meal 2-4 hours before your training session. Keep the meal low to moderate in fats and fiber, and include a moderate amount of protein. For example, you could enjoy spaghetti bolognese made with lean beef mince or egg/tofu fried rice.

To be more specific, a good rule of thumb is to consume 1-4 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight and 0.4-0.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for this meal. However, these recommendations may vary depending on your individual needs and dietary context.

In the 15-60 minutes leading up to your session, have a carbohydrate-rich snack to further top up your glycogen stores. Choose easily digestible options and be mindful of limiting fats and fiber, as these can slow down digestion and cause discomfort during training.

The recommended amount of carbohydrates for this snack is 0.5-1 gram per kilogram of body weight. If you use caffeine to enhance your session, this would be a great time to include it as well.

Note: If you train early in the morning, there’s no need to wake up super early for a pre-training meal 2-3 hours before your session. Instead, focus on consuming an easily digestible, carbohydrate-rich snack 15-60 minutes before you begin. Don’t sacrifice sleep for the sake of eating.

pre training nutrition

During Training: Know Your Needs

Not everyone requires or benefits from consuming food during training. Generally, sessions lasting under 60 minutes do not necessitate additional fueling unless they are particularly intense or pre-training fueling was inadequate.

Longer sessions of up to 2 hours may not require fueling either, especially if they are low intensity or involve significant rest periods. Powerlifting, for example, often falls into this category. While many powerlifters train for more than an hour, they may not need intra-training fuel. However, some individuals find it beneficial to consume fuel during longer sessions.

If you decide to fuel during training, follow similar principles to pre-training nutrition. Choose easily digestible, carbohydrate-rich options that are low in fat and fiber. Sports drinks, lollies, sports gels, and bars, and fruits are good examples.

Here’s a general guide for carbohydrate intake during training:

  • 45-90 minutes: No or minimal amounts (e.g., carbohydrate mouth rinse or a few jelly lollies)
  • 1-2 hours: 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour
  • 2-4 hours: 40-90 grams of carbohydrates per hour
  • 4 hours: 40-110 grams of carbohydrates per hour

However, remember that these recommendations may vary based on exercise intensity and individual gut tolerance. For more information on training the gut, check out our blog post here.

Post-Training: Recovery and Replenishment

The period following a training session is an excellent opportunity to optimize recovery and enhance the training adaptations your body undergoes as a result of exercise. When it comes to post-training nutrition, focus on the 3 R’s: refuel energy stores, repair damaged muscles, and rehydrate.

After training, it’s important to replenish the glycogen stores you’ve depleted. Aim to consume approximately 0.8-1.2 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight as part of your post-training meal, especially if you have another training session coming up soon. Great sources of carbohydrates include bread, oats, pasta, rice, potatoes, cereal, fruits, and legumes.

However, if you have ample time between your session and the next one, you don’t need to replenish your glycogen stores immediately. You can spread out your carbohydrate intake throughout the day.

Protein is essential for muscle repair, so make sure to include high-quality protein sources in your post-training meal. The current recommendation is to consume 0.4-0.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight within a 3-5 hour window around your training session.

Previously, it was believed that the anabolic window for muscle growth lasted only 30-60 minutes post-session, but research suggests it extends up to 5 hours. This means you can consume protein both before and after your training session and still reap its benefits. If you train in the morning, consider having some protein before your session or within the 30-60 minute timeframe afterward. For training at other times of the day, focus on consuming an adequate amount of protein (0.4-0.6 grams per kilogram of body weight) roughly every 3 hours to optimize muscle mass gains.

Training nutrition dietitian's guide

Key Takeaway: Personalize Your Nutrition

It’s important to remember that peri-training nutrition is highly individualized. Your specific needs will depend on factors such as training type, duration, and intensity, as well as your personal tolerance and preferences. The recommendations provided above serve as an excellent starting point for optimizing your nutrition around training. Experiment, listen to your body, and make adjustments accordingly. By fueling your body properly, you’ll be on your way to achieving your training goals and enhancing your overall performance and recovery.

By Leah Higl

Leah is an accredited practising dietitian from Brisbane. She also competes as an under 75kg powerlifter with Valhalla Strength Brisbane. As both an athlete and dietitian, she spends much of her time developing her knowledge and skills around sports nutrition, specifically for strength-based sports. Although, she works with a range of athletes from triathletes to combat sports and powerlifting. Leah also follows a plant-based diet and her greatest passion is fuelling vegan/vegetarian athletes and proving that plant-based athletes can be just as competitive as their non-vegan counterparts.​