Terrence Higgins Trust uses cookies to improve your experience of our websites. For more information or to change the use of cookies, please click here.

Accept and Close

Exercise and nutrition

man eats banana after workout

A healthy diet is an essential building block in making health improvements, and should be the foundation for the entire programme.

Exercise improves appetite and increases your need for calories, so having a healthy balanced diet is crucial. A person can be extremely advanced in their workout but not receive the full benefits because of the fuel they are using – you wouldn’t expect a high performance sports car to run on diesel, so why would you ask your body to do the same?

The general advice on what kinds of food to eat and in what proportions is exactly the same for people living with HIV as they are for anyone else, so just check up general healthy eating guidelines.

If you are looking to reduce fat then lowering your daily calorie intake and increasing your activity levels will help get rid of those exta inches. Try especially to eat less fats, sugars and processed foods (which often contain quite a lot of both).

On the other hand, if you are looking to increase weight and build muscle, then you need to ensure you’re taking in enough calories to fuel your muscle growth. Since protein is needed to build muscle, some people buy supplements such as protein shakes, to help do this. However, independent research shows that a healthy balanced diet contains enough protein to build muscle and that supplements aren’t really necessary.

If you want specific recommendations on healthy eating, ask at your clinic to speak to a dietician.

Generally, you should allow at least an hour after a large meal before exercising, unless you are taking the 'lifestyle activities' approach of moderate exercise, in which case a walk after a meal would be a great idea. It’s equally important not to exercise on a completely empty stomach, though. Eating a light snack or some fruit before exercising is fine and will help maintain your energy levels. You should also have a snack afterwards to replenish your energy levels.

You will hopefully already know the importance of drinking fluids, especially when on medication. However, given the increase in body temperature during exercise, you will need to drink more to hydrate your body, which means drinking more fluid than your recommended 1.2 litres (6-8 glasses) a day. Always ensure that you have water before, during and after a workout - try not to wait it until you are thirsty before having a drink.

See our eating and drinking pages for more information.



Whole Star Whole Star Whole Star Whole Star Whole Star (2 votes cast) Please log in or register to vote. What's this?


Please log in or register to add this article to My favourites. What's this? Adding an article to My favourites will allow you to easily come back to it later or print it.

Your comments

You will need to be logged in before you can leave a comment.

Please log in using the form on the top right of the page or register.

The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 31/10/2012 by T Kelaart

Date due for the next review: 31/10/2014

Content Author: G. Brough

Current Owner: G. Brough

More information:

Healthy eating guidelines, Food Standards Agency (2010)

A comparison of the clinical and cost-effectiveness of 3 intervention strategies for AIDS wasting, Tufts University (2005) 

Protein supplements and sport, Food Standards Agency (2010)

General dietary information, Food Standards Agency (2010)