Chicken, pepper stir-fry ()Chicken, pepper stir-fry () © Copyright

JC // Eating for the win

This month, FS magazine's favourite performance nutritionist James Collins shows you how to gear your nutrition to different types of training.

In my past two columns, I’ve laid down the foundations on how the world’s best athletes use the principles of performance nutrition to be on top of their game – now let’s explore how
we can make it work for you.

The most important thing is organising what you are eating and when you are eating it. In the context of performance nutrition, you’re going to eat directly before and after workouts. What you eat, then – specifically carbs, proteins and fats – will either enhance or reduce your gains from your workout. It’s that important.

Next, let’s get our language right: We often refer to pre-training feeding as ‘fuelling’, as it provides the energy (fuel) for the muscles during training. Your post-training meal is known as
the ‘recovery’ meal or snack, as you need to both refuel the muscles (with carbohydrates, stored as glycogen) and to kick-start the repair process (muscle protein synthesis), which lasts for more than 24 hours. Lots of people automatically think of a recovery shake first here, but a well-formulated snack or meal can be just as effective.

The fuel your body requires depends on two of the key performance nutrition principles:


Whether your focus is to reduce your body fat or improve your half marathon performance, a goal will affect how you fuel your body before and after a workout.

For example, if the goal is to lean up, then training fasted (before breakfast) or having a low-carb meal before training can prime the body to breakdown its fat stores and use it as fuel during the workout (also known as ‘oxidising’ fat, or more commonly known as ‘fat burning’).

When the goal is performance at high intensities, eg running a half marathon as quickly as possible, then you must increase carbohydrates in your diet, as it becomes the main fuel for your body.

Ultimately, how you gear your diet can change, and often boils down to making a decision towards your longer-term goal.


Different types of workout stress the body and muscles differently. There are different ways to fuel your body, depending what you are planning to put it through.

For longer, low-intensity endurance sessions (eg running, cycling), a low-fuel option is required. Reduce the carbs beforehand (also called ‘training low’) to encourage the body to adapt to the training, making it more efficient at using fat as fuel. This means a higher protein meal or snack beforehand, such as an omelette, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, or a Greek yoghurt pot. For shorter, low-intensity aerobic sessions (less than one hour), training such as before breakfast is fine.

For harder training (eg 10k race or fitness test), meanwhile, a high-fuel option is needed. As soon as the intensity increases, the body uses more carbs as fuel. This means having a carb-based meal such as oatmeal, tortilla wrap with lean meat or quinoa salad before your session. If you know it’s going to be a monster workout, go in fuelled!


The recovery meal is designed to provide a balance of both carbohydrates, to refuel the muscles, and a high-quality protein to kickstart the repair and remodelling of the muscle tissue.

Don’t forget the fats and vegetables here too, as increasing the antioxidant intake can help to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The only time where you may wish to cut the carbs is if the training has been a short, low-intensity workout.

Every workout is different, but getting your nutrition right can add to yours. Remember to drink, too – it’s important to rehydrate immediately after any type of workout, whether you’re heading home or back to the office.

Visit for more fuelling and recovery options, such as the three-way stir-fry pictured above. Or, check out FS magazine's nutrition section for more recipes and advice. 


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