Pre & Post Workout Eating 101
I’m not sure why pre and post workout meals seem SO complicated, but they do. I mean, we know how to eat, right?! Shouldn’t this be pretty simple? If we are eating clean does it really matter?
Turns out, it does matter if you want to maximize your workout, have sustained energy, replenish glycogen stores and repair muscle after your workout.
I know a whole lot of you out there get queasy if you eat before you hit the gym, and some of you feel weak and dizzy if you don’t chow down beforehand. But there’s a solution for everyone! We can once and for all stop asking the question and go into our workouts fueled up to crush even the most challenging workout (even PIIT28!). There are most certainly better foods than others, so take notes because they might not be what you think!
Alright guys, let’s get the obvious out of the way first.
- You need to hydrate before, during and after your workout. Water is your body’s cooling system, plain and simple. And if you sweat a lot or work out in the heat, you can easily get dehydrated. Shoot for about 32 ounces of water in the 2 hours leading up to exercise. If you’re breaking a sweat before the sun comes up, just make sure you hydrate a little extra during your sesh. You really don’t need anything more than water unless you’re working out in extreme heat or intensely for longer than 60 minutes. If you are, you might consider a sports beverage, but READ THOSE LABELS. The last thing you want are dyes and a bunch of sugar. Plain coconut water does wonders!
PROTEIN & CARBS:
- As for your pre-workout meal, turns out it’s exactly what you should eat post-workout! How’s that for simple?! I mean, we really have been over-thinking this thing, haven’t we? Before you exercise, you need some carbs (YAY!) and protein without much fiber or fat. (I’ll explain the why down below). The rest of the day, you definitely want to get in those healthy fats and fiber, but pre and post, fat and fiber slow down the transit of nutrients through the stomach, postponing the benefits of your meal.
- You want it, but not too close to your workout. Fiber is good, so don’t shy away from it. It expands the inside walls of your colon, which assists elimination (that’s a much nicer word than the alternative, huh!). Fiber helps you excrete more food, which prevents you from storing as much fat in your body and it makes you feel full faster. So if you’re not going #2 often, you’ve got to have more fiber, preferably from natural sources like vegetables, fruits, flax and chia seeds. But you don’t want all this action happening too close your workout, so save the big-ticket fiber foods for 2+ hours after your workout. This means that all those chia seed puddings, and high fiber cereals are NOT ideal immediately before or after you exercise.
BEFORE YOUR WORKOUT…
Simple or Complex?
- If you can eat 2 hours before your workout, slow-digesting or complex carbs like oats are a great choice. This allows some time for the carbs to digest and get blood sugar levels up and glycogen stores full prior to training. But if you’re lucky to just get out the door before you dash to the gym, consider more of a simple carb such as one slice of toast with some PB and banana!
To Fast or Not to Fast?
- There’s a lot of buzz about working out on an empty stomach; intermittent fasting is all the rage. But many experts recommend eating before exercise, and here’s why: Exercising on an empty stomach can lead to muscle tissue breakdown. Without food for fuel, muscle tissue is converted to glucose for energy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t work as hard as I do just to have my muscles breaking down to give me energy. If a small meal can prevent this, I’m all in!
- If you cannot stand eating first thing in the morning and always train on empty, assess the way you work out. If you’re going on a power walk, for example, you don’t need much. Lower-intensity workouts don’t require the same fuel-up as a HIIT class. Something is better than nothing, so if you can eat half of a protein bar, or a scrambled egg white and a few strawberries, or an egg muffin, you’ll be ok.
AFTER YOUR WORKOUT…
- As with most things in life, timing is everything! It is absolutely critical that you consume your post-workout meal immediately after exercise. Muscles are depleted and require a wealth of protein and carbohydrates. This is called, “the window,” and it’s when muscles are biochemically primed for nutrient uptake. Ideally, you’ll consume your post-workout meal within 20-30 minutes, and definitely within the hour. Muscles cannot reach their full potential without proper post-workout fuel in order to increase protein synthesis, which basically means, we probably aren’t getting all we can from our physiques! This is why a protein shake is great because you can make it before you leave the house and leave it in a cooler in your car. Go basic: a shake with almond milk, protein powder and half a banana gives you the macros you need. If that’s not an option, try a container of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese. Consume on your way home, or a few minutes after you press “stop” on a Blogilates workout, and you’ll be fueling properly within that perfect little window.
- Have you ever heard about endurance athletes chugging chocolate milk after a long session? It’s true! Chocolate milk contains just about the right about of protein and carbs with no fiber and little fat. Keep in mind these are tough workouts and the athletes use up their glycogen stores, but it’s pretty interesting huh?
What are your favorite pre- and post-workout meals?
38 thoughts on “Pre & Post Workout Eating 101”
There are 38 comments posted by our users.
Thank you for answering this challenging question I always thought about the way I wake up I must have my daily oats with berries before working out but you provided other recipes that I am excited to try to turn my boring breakfast into delicious and healthy fun varieties.
Thanks Cassey this is exactly what I needed. I have been wondering what to eat before workouts and this answered it perfectly. I look forward to trying some of the snacks you provided.
You have an intensive work out, a grueling sweat fest and you have to prepare your body for the same. It is important that you have enough energy to sustain for the entire workout and push for even more.
If you fail to fuel your body with a pre-workout snack, especially when you are lifting you miss out on an opportunity to push your body into a muscle-building (anabolic) state.
Your pre-workout fuel should ideally consist of proteins and slower-digesting carbs.
Can anyone recommend a good shake for meal replacement that is not super expensive and tastes good?? Thanks! 🙂
banana cinnamon smoothie
Is it actually good
I make a simple fruit smoothie for breakfast every morning or I save it for post workout on gym days and have something else for breakfast.
1 cup milk
1 cup fruit of choice (I usually use frozen fruit for convenience. Blueberries, strawberries, etc.)
Optional 1Tbs of chia seeds or flax seeds
Pre-workout snacks always help you push yourself to do your best. thanks for the post.
Is it okay to eat two bananas in one day? For example, you eat one slice of toast with peanut butter and banana as your preworkout meal and you drink a protein shake with milk and a banana as your post workout meal?
Amazing 100% natural options for getting enough energy, vitamins and minerals. I liked pre and post meals to gain to nourish body.
If you are really not into protein shakes–although I must admit that they are my go to post workout option–they must be chocolate!–You can try the old bodybuilding staple of white meat chicken and while rice.
Or, and this is not really my favorite you can do, tuna and pineapple
For more great info, please check out this
This post is everything I need to know what to eat around workouts! Thanks, Cassey! You rock as always <3
Protein shake (25g) before and after gym. Nothing beats the convenience of a shake. While grain toast or a banana usually accompany the pre….the post needs help tho.
Great snack/meal tips!! I’m always looking for new pre/post workout ideas.
Thank you Cassey!!! <3
Pre workout is always the tricky one for me, as gym tends to be a first thing in the morning routine. Tends to end up being smoothie goodness before, avocado and eggs post.
Thank you for this!! My pre and post workout eating habits are not the best and this was so informational.
Great information, I always look forward to your posts. I was wondering if in the future, you might consider doing a post on carb cycling. Lately, I’ve been hearing so much about it from other people and Youtubers. I would like to know, as a fitness professional, what is your take on it? Is it really as effective as people say? Is it healthy?
This is full of so much good info! I always knew it was important to think about what you ate before and after you workout but this explains it so much better!
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I usually workout fasted and nourish my body with a post-workout breakfast! Lots of healthy carbs, protein and fats are much needed afterwards.
This was so helpful! I always forget what and when to eat when it comes to pre or post-workout snacks. Thanks for the info and visuals!
Thank you for the great information! I love that these snacks are mostly vegetarian or can be made into vegetarian/vegan snacks easily 🙂
Ive always wanted to know what is the proper time that we should stop eating before bedtime ?
I get up so early to workout, then after the work out I ride my bike 3.5 miles to work everyday. I’m not sure if I can get up even earlier, but if I can swing it, how long do you take to digest before you begin your workout? Can you just go straight to it after eating a small breakfast?
Thank you so much for this clear pre and post workout smoothies/food! I can’t tell you how long I was waiting for this!
I have a question, what if I dont want to eat after workouts. Cus I workout at night and I do feel tired after so I opt for sleep. Any advice? 🙂
I can only give my completely unprofessional suggestion: Homemade microwave hot chocolate. Recipe: ~1 tsp cocoa powder, a dash of vanilla, a little bit of your favorite sweetener to taste, and ~6 oz of your favorite milk. Combine the ingredients in a microwave safe cup, stir, nuke for 30s, stir again, nuke again for ~30s or until warm. Enjoy! The added bonus it has the warm milk properties that minimally gives the placebo effect of helping you get to sleep.
I waiting for that too, I was want an accurate info so thank y !
Really useful post, thank you!
this is the post i’ve been waiting for my whole life. thanks Cassie!! xx
Haha glad you enjoyed!
Hi Cassey! I really want to know, what is the perfect time to work out- after a long day or before the day starts? Please let me know. Love you so much???
Are you supposed to eat before AND after you workout? Or pick whichever option best suits you? It just seems like a lot of food to do both. Especially when you’re on a lower calorie diet like I am
food around your workout is the most important food you should consume in your day as that is when you are expecting the most work to come from it.
What if I normally work out later at night? Should I simply have a lighter dinner and allow time to digest before my workout?
Since I practice intermittent fasting with a keto diet, always work out fasted and I find that I thrive that way 🙂
That’s awesome! Everyone is so different!