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The Importance of Proper Nutrition

HIIT (high intensity interval training) is an intense exercise technique for burning extra calories and attaining a wide array of cardiovascular benefits. The sole purpose of this exercise regime is to maximize results in a minimum amount time.

During bouts of intense exercise, your body endures vigorous physical activity. Proper nutrition is necessary to fuel a workout and maintain its benefits afterwards. To meet energy demands for strenuous exercise, healthy glycogen stores are required along with other micro and macronutrients. During the recovery phase, glycogen stores are replenished and muscles are repaired for which adequate proteins and carbohydrates are important. A complimentary diet also helps in increasing stamina for HIIT. In a nutshell, a balanced diet including protein, carbohydrates, fats and micronutrients is crucial for desired HIIT outcomes

Pre-Exercise Nutrition

Sufficient energy is required for strenuous exercise. This energy is derived from the breakdown of carbohydrates. In the early stages of exercise, muscle glycogen stores are used as energy. After these stores have been depleted, in later stages, blood glucose takes over. Therefore, pre-workout snack of carbs combined with protein helps meet the demands of your body. Research shows that taking 200-350g of CHO (carbohydrates) a few hours before exercise considerably increases performance by maximizing liver or muscle glycogen stores, and providing CHO from the small intestinei

Below are some options 1-2 hours before an intense HIIT workout:

  • A cup of milk with whole grain cereal
  • Banana with almond butter
  • Dried fruits
  • Whole grain toast with peanut butter

Post-Exercise Nutrition

High intensity exercise exhausts the body and depletes its glycogen stores. Fatigued muscles need to replenish their energy stores. To compensate the effects of an intense exercise session, a combination of protein and carbohydrates is recommended as post-workout meal. A ratio of 1:3 protein to carbs, within 30 minutes after a HIIT workout, appears to be the most effective. Research demonstrates that carbohydrates plus protein immediately after exercise enhances re-synthesis of glycogenii

Meal suggestions include:

  • Hummus with carrots or pita bread
  • Berries with cottage cheese
  • Protein shake
  • Protein bars
  • Whole-grain crackers and soy milk

The Importance of Fluid Intake

Hydration is equally as important as nutrition. Research shows that 150% fluid intake may be necessary for complete fluid replacement after intense exerciseiii

HIIT constitutes short intervals of intense cardio alternated with strength training. It burns relatively more calories than a sustained cardio workout and causes more fluid loss through sweating.

Keep a water bottle handy to avoid dehydration. Drinks with a little salt or electrolytes also help retain fluid in the body. Watch out for sugar laden drinks and avoid beverages containing alcohol and caffeine.

i Coggan AR, Swanson SC. Nutritional manipulations before and during endurance exercise: effects on performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1992 SEP;24(9 Suppl):S331-5.

ii Berardi JM, Price TB, Noreen EE, Lemon PW. Post exercise muscle glycogen recovery enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Jun;38(6):1106-13.

iii Burke LM. “Nutrition for post-exercise recovery” Aust J Sci Med Sport. 1997 Mar;29(1):3-10.

Author's bio: As a doctor and a nutritionist, Dr. Usman has a deep insight into all aspects of writing related to health and wellness. He is a regular contributor to several journals related to fitness, nutrition, health and medicine having produced thousands of quality articles, blog posts and ebooks over the years.

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