The body is constantly using fuel to repair the muscle damage created in training and competing; this is how muscles grow and adapt to help increase strength as you develop as an athlete.

Having appropriate fuel present for muscles to use in training can help reduce muscle soreness and fatigue, which helps you back up for the next training session and perform at your best.

Modifying the timing of meals specific to training times and during the day is a valuable tool to help athletes perform in training and reach body composition requirements. Having appropriate fuel present when the body needs it can help prevent mental and physical fatigue and sustain energy levels and also help prevent unnecessary picking, sweet cravings or large meals if hungry or tired.

One meal alone cannot provide all the fuel needed to both recover from your last session and prepare you for the next training session you have. You need to consider each meal you have over a whole day as contributing to your training and performance, through continuous refuelling and repair, so energy is utilised efficiently and effectively when the body needs it so you can reach your training goals.


When should I eat carbohydrates?

Carbohydrate is the preferred and most easily accessible fuel for high end activity – consume the most when you are most active!

Before training
A light meal containing carbohydrates prior to training can enhance performance, the more fuel present, the more you can push yourself and get the most out of your training session.

After training
The body needs carbohydrates again to replace what has been used so it’s available for the next training session; and to assist with muscle repair and recovery.


When should I eat protein?

Loading up on just protein doesn’t mean it will all turn into muscle – any excess protein not used to repair muscle will be oxidized as fuel or will just end up stored as fat.

Regular amounts over the day
After heavy or multiple training sessions, the body regularly needs protein for ongoing muscle turnover. One meal alone cannot deliver all this at once – protein needs time to turn into muscle.

Having a protein source in your snacks and meals over the day – especially around training – will replenish adequate protein as it’s needed. This also gives muscles the best chance for recovery before you put them through their paces again.


Timing of day to day meals

Smaller, frequent structured meals over the day facilitates continuous refuelling and repair needs when the body needs it so fuel is utilised effectively.

Meals and mid meals consumed at regular intervals are more beneficial for protein and carbohydrate delivery so the body uses this fuel for adaptation as it becomes available. It can prevent muscle wastage and can help maintain consistent body weight. If you are training heavily or aiming to gain weight you want to aim to eat something every 2-3 hours, if maintaining body comp or in a light training period aim to eat every 3-4 hours.

Try not to go longer than five hours without eating as this can effect energy levels and have a flow on effect which leads to fatigue or over eating at times when the body doesn’t use fuel as efficiently, which generally is late at night right before bed!


Receive nutrition information from NSWIS

Sign up to the weekly eNewsletter from the NSW Institute of Sport, which includes the latest nutrition blog from the NSWIS dietitian. Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.