Dubai Fitness Challenge: Are you fueled up?

As the Dubai Fitness Challenge kicks off today, what you eat before, during and after you exercise can have a major impact on the effectiveness of your workout. If you want to achieve that lean, chiseled body like an athlete, just exercising will not be enough. Optimal results can only be achieved if you have that balance between the 'input' and the 'output'.

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Published: Fri 30 Oct 2020, 4:06 PM

Last updated: Sun 1 Nov 2020, 6:07 PM

Chicken Breast

While protein might seem like a no-brainer, most people aren't getting enough in their diet. The amino acids in protein help to build connective tissue and muscle so you should aim to have protein within 15 minutes of your workout to reap its full benefits. Choose a lean cut of meat such as grilled chicken or a cup of cottage cheese or Greek yogurt.


Adding probiotic-rich foods to your diet could help your overall health and subsequently improve your fitness performance. Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha contain good bacteria that can help colonise your digestive tract with the right stuff. While the health claims of probiotics are still being researched, adding them to your diet could help boost your immune system function after a workout.


Oatmeal is easy to prepare, keeps you feeling full longer and provides a steady hit of energy. Stir in some protein powder or Greek yogurt and sprinkle on some cinnamon, which can help regulate blood sugar levels. Whole grains like oatmeal are proven to help prevent against cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If you're going to eat it before a workout, make sure you leave at least an hour for digestion.


Snack on a banana before you hit the ground. Their easy-to-digest carbs power you up without weighing you down. They're also a good source of antioxidants and potassium, a mineral that may help prevent muscle cramps. Toss one into your gym bag for a last-minute snack.

Cup of Coffee

It's no wonder than many gyms now host coffee joints in-house. The reason being: Caffeine can improve your athletic performance because it can help your nervous system to react more quickly, it reduces pain and can help speed up our muscle contractions. Drink a cup of coffee an hour to an hour and a half before a workout to utilize its buzzy benefits. But be warned, too much can have a negative effect on your performance and make you jittery or nauseated.


Omega-3 fatty acid is key to reducing muscle soreness and inflammation after a workout. Excellent sources include cold-water fish such as trout or salmon. Research has shown that fish oil supplementation can increase your resting metabolic rate and fat oxidation and also lowers triglyceride levels (associated with cholesterol and in turn heart disease). Add some fish to your menu at least once a week and speak to your doctor before starting an omega-3 supplement.

Sweet Potatoes

Eating a complex carb one to two hours before a workout can help give you better performance and the fuel your body needs to sustain a gym session. These root veggies not only have Vitamin A and anti-inflammatory compounds, they also have blood sugar regulating effects. Roast slices of sweet potato with olive oil and rosemary for a savoury treat.


There's a lot of buzz about beets when it comes to making the most of your workout. Some studies show that nitrate-rich vegetables, like beets, can enhance performance during exercises like running and also improve blood flow. Drink some beet juice a few hours before a workout-but don't overdo it as too much of this root vegetable can lead to gastrointestinal distress.

Ginger & Garlic

Fresh herbs like garlic and ginger are crucial anti-inflammatories to boost your body's recovery post-workout. Ginger is great for the immune system, which is compromised right after a high-intensity workout and research has shown that it can also reduce muscle pain.  Garlic is also a known immunity-booster and studies show that garlic can reduce strain on the heart during workouts and boost your oxygen consumption during cardio. Grate some fresh ginger into your morning smoothie and nosh on fresh garlic mashed with an avocado for an afternoon snack.


Not only is it rich in vitamin C and potassium, preliminary research reveals that the antioxidants in the fruit are good for your muscles too. Results from two recent studies, for example, show that active people who drank pomegranate juice daily had improved muscle strength post-exercise.

We also have a few best pre-workout meals and snacks to keep energised during your workout.

Importance of eating before workout

To maximise your performance and recovery, it's important to fuel your body with the right nutrients before a workout. Carbs help maximise your body's ability to use glycogen to fuel short- and high-intensity exercises, while fat helps fuel your body for longer exercise sessions. Choose from any of the list to amp up your energy

. Brown rice (1/2 cup) with black beans (1/2 cup)

. Small sweet potato with steamed or lightly salted broccoli in olive oil (1 cup)

. Banana with almond butter

(2 tablespoons)

. Apple with almond butter

(2 tablespoons)

. Multi-grain crackers (10) with hummus (3 tablespoons)

. Oatmeal (1/2 cup) with berries (1 cup), sweetened with stevia or agave

. Apple and walnuts (1/4 cup)

. Whole-wheat toast (1 slice) with a sliced banana and dash of cinnamon

. Greek yogurt with trail mix

(1/4 cup)

Importance of eating after workout

During exercise, your body taps glycogen (the fuel stored in your muscles) for energy. After you>ve cranked out that last rep, your muscles are depleted of their glycogen stores and broken down. When it comes to what to eat after a workout, eating or drinking something that combines protein and carbohydrates 30 minutes to an hour after your workout refills energy stores, builds and repairs your muscles that were broken down, and helps keep your metabolism burning strong. Try these quick post-workout meal ideas to speed up recovery, maximize exercise benefits, and help maintain lean muscle:

. Protein shake made with half a banana, one scoop of protein powder, almond milk, and hemp seeds (excellent protein source)

. Salad with roasted chickpeas (1/2 cup), light olive oil, and vinegar

. Sautéed or steamed vegetables (1 cup) with non-GMO tofu

(1/2 cup)

. Quinoa bowl (1 cup) with blackberries (1 cup) and pecans (1/4 cup)

. Whole-wheat bread (2 slices) with raw peanut butter (2 tablespoons) and agave nectar

. Burrito with beans (1/2 cup), brown rice (1/2 cup), guacamole (2 tablespoons), and salsa

. Grilled chicken with sautéed or steamed vegetables (1 cup)

. Omelet (2 eggs) stuffed with sautéed vegetables (1/2 cup) and avocado (1/4 of fruit, sliced)

. Grilled salmon with a baked sweet potato

. Whole-wheat bread (2 slices) with tuna mixed with hummus

(2 tablespoons), spinach leaves

. Chocolate milk (1 cup)

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