Pre and Post Workouts…. What should I be eating?

Is it important for me to be eating before a workout? How long before and after my workout should I eat? And what? You may be asking yourself these types of questions when it comes to fueling pre and post-workout and searching for some helpful intel. In addition to properly hydrating before and after workouts, our bodies use different types of nutrients as fuel for energy and for repairing muscle, so it is important to be aware of the foods you choose. 

  • Carbohydrates are used as the primary source of fuel during exercise, and this comes from stored energy called glycogen. These stores of glucose are mainly found in the liver and muscles. 
  • These stores are depleted with exercise, and depending on the type and intensity, you need to replenish them daily, mainly post-workout.
  • Protein is essential for muscle repair and needed mainly post-workout.

Timing of Eating and What to Eat

Pre-workout 

  • Your body should not digest while trying to perform for you during exercise, so eating a large meal an hour or less before a workout is not encouraged. If you need something close to exercise (30 minutes), try a small fruit like an apple or banana and avoid fats and a heavy protein. 
  • 2-3 hours pre-workout is a reasonable time frame to experiment with a meal if needed.  
  • A meal containing carbs, protein, and a small amount of healthy fat may be consumed before a workout if done within the 2-3 hour window. 
  • Aim mainly for a carb for energy and some protein (especially if doing strength training).
  • An hour before: fruit and Greek yogurt or a protein bar (full or half), fruit and nut butter.
  • 2-3 hours: avocado toast on grain bread, PB and sliced fruit on grain bread, oatmeal with PB and fruit, fruit and nut butter, protein shake, egg with veggies and fruit, or protein cereal with milk

Post-workout

  • Your body needs to replenish its glycogen stores and repair muscles used after exercise. 
  • Try to eat within 60 minutes post-workout, especially after an intense workout, or if you did a fasting workout. 
  • Aim for complex carbs and protein to help in workout recovery.
  • Replenishing electrolytes from sweating via water and your post-recovery meal or adding electrolytes to your water.
  • Egg, veggies, and avocado with fruit; turkey/tuna/chicken with lettuce and tomato on grain bread; protein shake (protein powder, fruit, and chia); protein waffle with nut butter and banana or blueberries; grilled chicken, quinoa, or sweet potato, and veggies; oatmeal with protein powder and berries; cottage cheese and fruit. 

Notes: 

  • Many pre and post-meals are similar if your workout meals start a couple of hours before the exercise, with mainly a combination of carbs and protein. 
  • Eating too close to a workout can cause GI issues, such as nausea and cramping, so be aware of foods and quantities. 
  • Some people work out in the early morning and like to do a fasting workout. If this works for you, make sure you are hydrating with water properly (8-16 oz pre, during, and post) and post-workout; try following the above guidelines. 
  • Experiment with how you feel. Do you have energy during the workout? Do you feel tired or sluggish? Do you feel nauseous after? These are all signs your body is telling you that what you ate or didn’t eat affects your workouts and recovery. Try different snacks and meals and timing. Depending on your schedule, you may need to tweak when and what you eat. 
  • The weather, blood sugar, hormonal levels, sleep, and many other factors can affect your workout at certain times of the day. What you eat and when you fuel can help with your energy, performance, and recovery. 

Stay mindful of what works best for you!
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