Why your workouts don’t work: 5 food traps to avoid
HFG dietitian Melissa Meier pinpoints common nutrition mistakes that produce poor workout results and shares tips to overcome them.
1 Having an unnecessary sports drink
Clever marketers claim you need fancy sports drinks for hydration, but that’s not usually the case. The truth is sports drinks can add a lot of kilojoules, with some popular brands containing about eight teaspoons of sugar per bottle!
This extra energy comes in handy for extremely active people who exercise at high intensity for long periods, but for the average person who is simply exercising for good health, water is the best choice.
HFG fit tip
Carry a water bottle with you to help you reach your daily water target of two litres, particularly as the weather starts to warm up.
2 Treating yourself after a workout
Do you order the pancakes with maple syrup after a walk with friends, or stop by a smoothie bar for a supersized green juice and raw treat after a spin class? While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional treat, regularly overindulging after exercise could be the reason your results have stalled. Instead, you can harness those post-exercise, feel-good endorphins and nourish your body with a healthy meal — like poached eggs and avocado on wholegrain toast when you’re at a café, or a well-stocked fruit bowl waiting for you at home.
HFG fit tip
Choose healthy meals and snacks most days after you exercise, and enjoy your favourite treats on special occasions, and really savour them.
3 Going overboard on protein
Protein is crucial to building, maintaining and repairing your muscles, and it’s particularly important after a workout. However, relying on protein alone isn’t ideal — you should combine it with carbs to get the most benefit. That’s because you have a ‘window of opportunity’ immediately after you exercise, where muscle is rebuilt and carbs are taken up by the muscle at a faster rate, which then helps you to recover effectively.
HFG fit tip
Forget about protein bars and shakes — opt for real food instead.
A tub of yoghurt or homemade smoothie provides the perfect nutritional balance you need for a post-workout snack.
4 Overeating for the rest of the day
Do you often say, “I’ve earned this extra glass of wine”, or allow yourself a larger than usual meal portion at dinner because you exercised earlier during the day?
Using food as a reward is a habit often established when we’re children, but you might end up consuming far more kilojoules than you actually expended! Food rewards also can create feelings of guilt, which can then lead to over-exercising to ‘burn off’ the extra kilojoules. It’s a dangerous cycle to get into. Break the habit and treat yourself to some non-food-related rewards for sticking to your exercise regime.
HFG fit tip
Book yourself a massage or a pedicure, or shop for a new outfit when you have reached your latest health and fitness goals.
5 Being too restrictive
While some people overcompensate, others often take the opposite approach and get caught up in fad diets and restricting certain foods. Low carb? Dairy free? Paleo
There’s really no need to stretch to these. You’ll get the best results from your workout by fuelling your body properly with a varied diet that incorporates foods from every food group. Beware of taking advice from a misinformed personal trainer, a social media wellness guru, or even your own well-intentioned Google search.
HFG fit tip
See a qualified nutrition expert, such as an Accredited Practising Dietitian or Sports Dietitian to help you strike the perfect diet/exercise balance.
Exercise tips for the time-poor
Get it done early
Lay out your exercise clothes the night before and get out of bed when the alarm goes — before your brain works out what you’re doing!
Use your lunch break
Go for a 10—15 minute walk around the area you work in— every little bit adds up!
Take the stairs
Incidental activity is a great way to increase the number of steps you take each day. Stand up when you’re on the phone, or walk to colleagues rather than email them.
Go for a walk with a friend, hit the gym with your partner, or involve your colleagues in your exercise routine.
Next time you need to make a phone call, walk and talk at the same time. When you drop the kids off to sports training, walk around the oval or the shops — don’t wait in the car.
Put it in the diary
Schedule exercise like you would an appointment — and make it non-negotiable!
Top post-workout food
These easy, tasty meals and snacks combine muscle-building protein with energising, slow-release carbs.
Smoothie made with fruit & reduced-fat milk
Poached eggs & avocado on wholegrain toast
Toasted cheese & tomato sandwich
Small bowl of natural yoghurt, fruit & untoasted muesli
Vegetable omelette with a slice of grainy toast
Chicken and roasted vegie wrap
Tuna and salad sandwich
Glass of Milo made with reduced-fat milk
Banana and a handful of nuts
Wholegrain toast with peanut butter and sliced banana
Melissa is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with a love of healthy, delicious food. She is passionate about helping others to lead healthier lives and teaching people to use nutrition to better their health.