Snacking ignorance among gym-goers

EXPERTS WARN that people embarking on exercise regimes may not get the results they want because of ignorance over the snacks they eat afterwards.

The survey [1], commissioned by British Lion eggs, found that nearly half (46%) of all gym-goers generally eat a snack soon after they have been exercising.  Of this group around one in three women (31%) have a savoury snack of nuts or crisps, and 29% have a glass of fruit juice or a smoothie, while 22% of men have an energy drink and 15% will have a protein shake - but all are likely to be the wrong choice, say experts led by top nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton.

And many people reach for popular snacks without checking the calories – leading them to consume more than they’ve burnt off in the gym. The survey adds to the evidence of this view, with only 33% of people correctly guessing a value between 300 – 400 calories when asked how many calories a typical coffee shop flapjack or granola bar contains, with one-quarter of men not even hazarding a guess about the calorie content. And only one in six people (16%) know that there are only 250 calories in a healthy meal of two eggs on toast.

Top nutritionist, Dr Carrie Ruxton, said: “Many people are not only consuming unnecessary calories but fail to get the balance right between carbs, for topping up energy stores; and protein, for repairing muscles.

“What you eat before and after exercise is important for optimum performance and recovery. So, those people who are snacking on fruit juices, smoothies, nuts or crisps after they have been to the gym may not be making the right choices. Experts now recommend a post-exercise meal which combines protein and carbohydrate. Other choices can be a waste of money, or loaded with unnecessary calories.

“If typical gym-goers ate a protein-rich snack or meal, such as two eggs on toast, after exercise, they would get enough protein for muscle building as well as contributing to their intake of essential nutrients. Expensive protein shakes are simply not needed by most people.”

Furthermore, a recent study from Glasgow University found that some “healthy option” soft drinks contain the equivalent of more than 30 teaspoons of sugar per litre [2].

Female gym-goers have another guilty secret - one in ten women admit to having gone to the gym and not doing any exercise and 9% admitted to booking an exercise class but not turning up.

Almost a third (31%) of men and women surveyed thought two eggs on toast had more calories than it actually contains, while just under a third (31%) thought a typical flapjack or granola bar had less calories than it has. In fact, a meal of two eggs* on toast has fewer than 250 calories, while a flapjack or granola bar** has between 300 and 400 calories.

Almost one-third (30%) of people in the UK – and more than half (53%) of 18-24 year-olds - have either used or know of someone who has used protein supplements, shakes or powders, and while protein is key to building and maintaining muscle, people can get sufficient protein from their diet, even endurance athletes [3]. Sports nutritionists advise that 10-20g of protein is considered the optimal amount for aiding recovery after exercise and a simple two-egg dish will provide this at a fraction of the cost.

Eggs are enjoying a resurgence with top athletes joining the growing number of people endorsing them as a healthy meal option. Victoria Pendleton, Jessica Ennis, Michael Phelps and Paula Radcliffe have all been quoted recently saying they eat eggs as part of their training.

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All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2058 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th - 13th April 2012.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

* Based on one portion of eggs (equals two medium eggs weighing 58g each) and a serving of Hovis Best of Both Medium bread providing a total of 13g protein. Data taken from Tesco at time of research (March 2012)

** Based on one serving of Starbucks Granola bar, which contains 397 calories, or one serving of Cafe Nero White Chocolate & Cranberry Flapjack, which contains 341 calories. Data taken from Starbucks and Cafe Nero at time of research (March 2012)

Example recipes, pre- and post-workout:

  • Pre-workout meal: Toasted bagel with spinach and eggs - helps sustain power output during exercise thanks to its high content of carbohydrate, which is combined with protein (from the eggs) to lower the meal’s glycaemic index (GI)
  • Post-workout meal: Baked eggs with Mediterranean vegetables - an excellent way of getting at least two of an athlete’s 5-a-day fruit and vegetables. It is a good natural source of vitamins A, C and E - important antioxidants that promote recovery after exercise


[1] YouGov plc: 11th-13th April 2012
[2]University of Glasgow. UK public underestimating sugar levels in popular drinks. 17th April 2012.
[3]NHS Choices. Supplements, Who Needs Them? A Behind the Headlines report. June 2011.