No amount of exercise will get you the body you want if you don’t also eat correctly. We share a few important truths.

People who exercise regularly need to eat enough of the right foods if they want to reap the most rewards from all their hard work. Not only does the right diet fuel your body for your workouts; it also helps your body to endure the stress of exercise, helps with muscle repair, and leads to better overall performance.

Exercise and nutrition is a very complex topic, with many different opinions and much contradictory research. We've brought it down to five basic rules to get you started:

1. Don’t exercise on an empty stomach
If you haven’t eaten within the two hours prior to training, grab a banana and an electrolyte drink or something else that’s light. This will keep your blood-sugar levels steady.

For shorter workouts (under 45 minutes), something like a banana will be enough, but for workouts exceeding 60 minutes, you might need something more, such as an electrolyte drink or smoothie.

2. Avoid simple carbohydrates
Sugary foods and soft drinks are considered simple carbohydrates, as they’ll give you an instant boost of energy. But this sugar rush will soon fade and leave you feeling worse than before. Too much simple carbohydrates in your diet will wreak havoc with the way you metabolise insulin and can lead to excessive fatigue and fat storage.

3. Drink water
Proper hydration affects energy levels and regulates body temperature and heart rate. A one-hour workout could drain you of up to 1 litre of water, depending on exercise intensity and air temperature. This leads to dehydration and a subsequent loss of energy and possible muscle cramps. Remember: the harder you work out, the more fluids you’ll need to replace, so keep a bottle of water handy.

To stay well-hydrated for exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you:

    • Drink roughly 2 to 3 cups (473 to 710ml) of water during the two to three hours before your workout.

    • Drink about half to 1 cup (118 to 237ml) of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout.

    • Adjust amounts according to your body size and the weather.

    • Drink roughly 2 to 3 cups (473 to 710ml) of water after your workout for every 500g of weight you lose during the workout.



4. Plan your meals
Much research points to how eating a balanced breakfast may set the tone for how your body utilises nutrients throughout the day. This, together with making sure you always have healthy food options available for when you do feel hungry, will make sure you don’t end up eating unhealthy foods.

5. Don’t skip your recovery meal
What you eat after a workout is important and can hamper any results you were hoping to get from your programme. For some people, eating a meal after a hard workout is ideal; for others, a supplement shake with protein and carbohydrates works best. You could also try adding some delicious superfoods to your favourite shake, to increase nutrient value!

Find what works for you; then try and take it within an hour of completing your workout.

READ MORE about exercise and fitness:

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>> Build a fitness training regime 

>> 5 ways to avoid injury at the gym