Derval O'Rourke: Tried and tested tips for pre- and post-workout – Irish Examiner

Protein bars

With September coming to a close, hopefully you have found yourself in a nice routine. I’ve been doing more structured workouts and, with that, I’ve been thinking about my top pre- and post- workout tips. And, this week, I also have my favourite recipe for post workout snacking for you.

Food: What you eat pre-workout can make a really big difference to how you feel during exercise. For me, that means eating something that will give me the energy I need plus the protein I need to keep in reserve. The timing of my pre-workout snack is important, I aim for 1-2 hours before the workout. This is something you should tweak to suit your own needs and how you respond to eating pre-workout.  I say this because I know personally I need to be closer to two hours rather than one but, for others, one hour might be fine. Play around with this timing and make some notes about what feels best for you.

When picking the food you eat, my advice is similar to the above, experiment with different options and find the foods that feel best to you. Some examples of my go-to pre-workout foods are:

* Small pot of yoghurt with a handful of nuts

* A fruit smoothie with a handful of nuts

* A slice of wholemeal toast with a little butter and turkey/chicken

* A granola bar

* Oat cakes with peanut butter and a mashed banana

Equipment: For me, there are some really basic ‘equipment’ needs for my workouts. The first is that my shoes are comfortable and fit for purpose, if I’m going for a walk/run I like to wear shoes that are slightly more robust and are rain resistant (I hate having soggy feet!) If it is a gym session I like fairly light shoes. The next area I consider is clothing. Again this depends on the activity. If it is indoor I will wear lighter options but if it’s outdoor I will wear more weather-appropriate clothing. Don’t underestimate the difference a good waterproof jacket makes to your workout if it is outside. The final piece of equipment I’m going to mention is a watch. I like to track my steps and my heart rate, pre-workout I like to make sure I have my watch on so I can look at my heart rate zones after the workout. I currently wear a Garmin Forerunner 45S, I bought it in the Edge sports shop in Cork.

Post-Workout Tips

Food: How you re-fuel after your workout can make a really big difference to your recovery from your workout and ultimately your ability to simply feel good. I aim to choose foods to help repair, recover and build muscle. The timing post-workout can be tricky so I consider the window from 45 minutes up to 90 minutes as a best-case scenario. I love when I can enjoy my main meal of the day in this window of time but more often than not that is simply not feasible. Here are some of my go-to post-workout foods on the go:

* Milk with a banana and handful of nuts

* Slice of bread with hummus

* Slice of bread with chicken, lettuce and cucumber

* Protein ball or bar (the recipe below might be helpful)

Wellness Tip

For some people, training with food in their stomach can be hard — a protein shake is often a good solution to this. There are lots of good quality protein shake products on the market and it’s well worth your time to pick out one that works for you.

Movement of the Week

Jogging is a great way to get moving and increase your heart rate. I know lots of people don’t feel comfortable jogging but if you can introduce a little jogging it is hugely beneficial.

* Hold your head high, centred between your shoulders. Try to avoid looking down (be mindful of the ground surface though)

* Keep your gaze ahead and avoid slumping your shoulders

* Keep your hands and arms relaxed

* Aim for 1 minute of jogging and 1 minute of walking to get started.

Protein bars

recipe by:Derval O’Rourke

An ideal pre or post workout snack

Protein bars

Preparation Time

10 mins


  • 2.5 scoops of protein (I use a good quality vanilla whey protein — Ros and Kinetica are good Irish brands)

  • 20g raw cacao powder or cocoa powder if you don’t have cacao

  • 40g porridge oats

  • 40g unsweetened desiccated coconut, plus extra for coating

  • 50ml almond milk

  • Pinch of salt


  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Keep mixing until all the dry ingredients stick together.

  2. If you still find the mixture to be slightly dry, add in an extra tablespoon.

  3. Scoop out onto parchment paper and mould into flat squares (about 2cm tall).

  4. Cut into rectangles and roll in the remaining desiccated coconut. Alternatively, these can be rolled as balls.

  5. Leave to set for a few minutes, ideally in the fridge, until they are firm.

  6. These bars are best stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

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About the Author: Eugene Berry