From Food to Fuel

By Megan Pentz-Kluyts RD (SA)

We all know that exercise is good for so many reasons – it makes us feel good, it provides an outlet for stress, it enables us to form friendships and socialise with others, we can set and achieve goals, get stronger, lose weight, reduce disease risk. Hooked yet?

A balanced diet is a cornerstone of health. Fuelling your fitness with the proper nutrition will help to maximise the benefits of all your hard work, be it in the gym, out running, or on the bike. Here are some general nutrition guidelines to ‘boost’ your performance.

Before you start

Don’t ‘drive’ on empty. Eat a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack to help maintain blood glucose levels and fuel muscle glycogen needed for your training. Food options can include honey or jam on Ryvita, banana and yoghurt, or pasta in a tomato-based sauce.

Training session

If you’re training for less than an hour, just think ‘hydration’. If you’re exercising for longer, aim for 30-60g of carbohydrates for each hour. A range of easier to digest foods or beverages, including juices, sports drinks, gels, bars and fruit provide readily-available fuel. Be sure to check the food labels!


After your workout, refuel within the hour with fluid, carbs and some protein. Carbohydrates are for muscle glycogen restoration and protein helps repair your muscles. Do make sure you go with minimally processed sources of carbohydrate, like fresh fruit, vegetables, beans and whole, intact grains, like Ryvita, quinoa and brown rice. Examples of ‘refuelling foods’ can include, pasta with chicken and a marinara sauce; Ryvitas with a cheese or tuna topping and fruit juice, or chocolate milk with a banana and biltong.

Drink up

Start hydrated. For exercise lasting less than 60-90 minutes it may be alright to rely on thirst as an indicator that it’s time to drink fluids. However, as a general guideline, anything longer, drink 3ml of fluid per kilo of body weight every 20 minutes to prevent dehydration and over-hydration.

As an active woman, your body gives a lot when you put it through a strenuous workout. Give back by feeding it right! Whatever your age or situation, committing to a healthy, nutritious diet will help you look and feel your best and get the most out of life.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen