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The Fitness Zone

Does When You Eat Matter?
July 8, 2020
This article was originally written in 2017 by Shirley Muijselaar, a previous Nutrition and Massage Coach for the Australian Institute of Fitness, SA. It has since been adapted. 

Although you may know the exact foods you should be eating or meal plan you should be following for optimum mental and physical performance... does the timing of when you eat these foods actually make a difference?

It is important to understand the fundamentals of nutrition in terms of eating regularly and eating for fuel and recovery to find the answer as to whether the timing of our meals actually matters when it comes to mental and physical performance.


There are many benefits of eating regular meals; it is a great way to keep your energy levels well balanced, your mind alert throughout the day and can help you to maintain a healthy metabolism. 

It is recommended that each individual eat at least three meals a day, and If you are training often or require more energy, including a healthy snack(s) such as fruit, vegetables, or nuts into your daily intake too.

If your meal timings are regular, you can minimise the chance you’ll experience HANGER too (Hunger + Anger). We all know that no one likes you when you’re Hangry...


To improve your physical performance it’s important to plan your nutrition intake around your workouts.

When training for up to 90 minutes at a moderate level, a pre-workout meal with carbohydrates is extremely important to maintain your energy levels. Ideally, you should eat two-three hours before your workout in order for your meal to properly digest.

If weight-loss or fat loss is your goal, then the timing of a pre-workout snack is important too. If you eat too close to your workout, the energy you expend will be fueled directly by what is in your stomach, not by your fat stores. A pre-workout meal should be relatively high in energy (but not higher than the amount of energy required for the workout), and could include a banana, fruit or yoghurt.

For physical exercise that lasts longer than a couple of hours at a moderate level (e.g. running a full marathon), your body may require refuelling along the way. 

Muscle glycogen is stored in your body, but the best energy for performance will only last for 1 ½ - 3 hours during moderate to high-intensity exercise. A snack high in carbohydrates and electrolytes, like bananas, muesli bars, energy bars, sandwiches or sports drinks, can be consumed to refuel the body effectively.

Post-workout meals or snacks are just as important as after training you need to refuel, repair and rehydrate your body. The food or drink that you consume after a workout will be best absorbed within 30 minutes after your workout. And of course, don’t forget to drink plenty of water for rehydration.


Whether you are exercising or not, when you eat will make a difference in how you feel psychically and mentally. Nutrition intake that is well planned is more likely to include all the nutrients you need for the day and it will help you to avoid making poor food choices too!

If you are looking to improve your physical performance, planning your nutritional intake is essential as it will assist to supply you with enough energy during exercise, and it will improve the recovery after a workout.

If you would like to learn more about nutrition why not become a Nutrition Coach! 

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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