High intensity interval training, otherwise known as HIIT, is a firm favorite among gym-goers. It's efficient, it forces you to work hard, and it targets the whole body in each calorie-blasting session.
To get the most out of your HIIT classes, you want to make sure you're doing it right—and that includes your food intake before and after the session, too. But it can be hard to know what's best; is it better to eat immediately before a high intensity workout? Or should you do it on an empty stomach in a bid to burn more fat?
Cosmopolitan asked Alexandra Cook—aka The Sports Dietitian, who's working in partnership with nutritional supplement brand Lift—what her advice is when it comes to fuelling and re-fuelling for a HIIT workout.
"If you want to have a good session, being well fuelled is important," Alexandra says. "Ensure you eat regular meals balanced with carbs and protein throughout the day, and well-timed snacks before and after training."
The Sports Dietitian's rule of thumb is to eat "a balanced meal three hours before exercise, and then a high energy snack an hour before to make sure you are powered and good to go." If you're not the meal-prepping type, a high energy snack in your gym bag will suffice.
So that's your pre-workout consumption sorted. But how long should you wait after your high intensity session to start refuelling?
"The main goals for post exercise refuel are to replace the energy you have used, increase muscle quality and repair any damage caused by exercise," says Alexandra.
For professional athletes who are training intensively, and often more than once a day, it's important that they eat within 30 minutes of finishing training. For us mere mortals, the dietitian reassures us that the rules are more lax.
"Ensure you have a carbohydrate- and protein-based snack or balanced meal within one to two hours of finishing training, and then continue to ensure you have adequate carbs and protein throughout the rest of your day to meet individual training needs," suggests the dietitian.
Alexandra's recommendation for a quick, on-the-go refuel is a smoothie "mixing one banana, 30g of oats, 1 tbsp nut butter and 350 to 500mls of milk."