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High Intensity Interval Training Nutrition


Mixing up your training can improve your performance as well as cure the boredom that comes with doing the same thing day in day out. But does your nutrition change when change your performance?

There are a lot of different ways to change your training so today I am looking at High intensity interval training (HIIT). This is when you alternate between high and low intensity exercise(s) or between high intensity exercise and a short period of rest. Whether it’s timed intervals or distance intervals, stair running and/or circuit training, to be successful with your this type of training proper nutrition is required to ensure your body has enough fuel to do what you ask of it.


HIIT has been shown to be excellent for:

  • Losing body fat (while retaining lean body mass).
  • Strengthening the cardiovascular system.
  • Developing “work capacity” (i.e. the ability to tolerate a high level of intensity for a longer period).
  • Improving fat and carbohydrate oxidation in skeletal muscle.
  • Shown to be more easier on your joints.
  • It has been shown to be 3-4 times as effective as traditional strength and endurance training.

Alice Sharples runningSo what do you eat?

Pre-Workout Nutrition:

HIIT workouts are intense so it is critical that your diet prior to working out contains enough energy to allow you to maintain that high intensity you want. Start your nutrition preparation 2-4 hours before your upcoming training. Have a light meal that provides the energy you need for a successful workout. Plan on a moderate- to high-carbohydrate meal that also includes protein, fat and fibre. You need enough energy to fuel your workout but eating too much can lead to gastrointestinal distress. Good options for a pre-workout meal include:

  • Scrambled eggs on toast.
  • Berry milk smoothie.
  • Porridge with protein powder and fruit.

Within the hour before your work out aim to eat a high energy snack to give that extra boost to your energy stores.

Great snack options include:

  • Whole-grain toast with peanut butter and banana.
  • Greek yogurt with fruit.
  • Apple with peanut butter.
  • Handful of sweet e.g. jet planes


Post-Workout Nutrition:

The biggest nutritional concern post-workout is replacing energy stores (glycogen) and repairing muscles that have been broken down during the intense workout. These two steps are crucial for your body’s ability to recover. Research shows that a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within 30-120 minutes of completing a HIIT workout is best. Suggestions for post-workout nutrition are:

  • Whole-grain cereal with fruit and milk.
  • Whole-grain crackers with fruit or cheese.
  • Protein shake or chocolate milk.
  • Quinoa, vegetables and chicken.
  • Pasta with meat sauce and salad.


By eating well you will find that you are able to maintain a high intensity for longer. You will feel full of energy throughout your sessions and you will see training and performance improvements. If you are needing help fueling your high intensity sessions please don’t hesitate to contact me on nutrition@NZtrailrun.com