What to Eat Before and After a Workout

Andie Ovard
Racing expert
Andie Ovard
More from this author
Andie Ovard
More from this author

What you eat before…and after your workouts is a huge part of how your workouts will go and how effective they will be. You need the proper foods to fuel your workouts and to recover from them.

So let’s talk pre-workout fuel. Eating something to prep for your workout about an hour or two previous to exercising will give you the energy you need to get through it and kick butt. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our bodies, so it’s important to include some carbs in your pre-workout snacks and meals. (this is why you hear about endurance athlete’s “carbo loading” before a big event…they need carbs to fuel those intense workouts!). Try to aim for around a 300-400 calorie meal a couple hours before your workout. If you’re eating closer to your workout (more like 30 minutes) have a smaller snack, around 200 calories.  You don’t want to over-do it and feel overly full and weighed down but something a light meal/snack that’s easy to digest should be enough to give you the energy you need but not leave you feeling too full.  Again, you want to eat foods that are easy to digest, limit fats because they take longer to digest and can sometimes be harder on your digestive system (not something you want while trying to finish a killer workout).  Doing something more liquid, like a smoothie may be a good idea if you’re having any kind of upset stomach, the liquid will likely be digested more quickly and cause less upset.

During your workout…hydrate! (Check out my previous article on this blog about staying hydrated during your workouts for more details on that…). If you’re participating in a major endurance sport or activity, you may need to fuel during your workout, but for a typical day at the gym that shouldn’t be necessary.

So what about post-workout eats? Post-workout it’s important to refuel with protein to rebuild your muscles and recover from a tough workout…and help your muscles GROW. You also need some carbohydrates to replace all those carbs you just used during your workout. It’s important to replenish your glycogen stores, so a snack with a good mix of carbs and protein is ideal. Try to eat something within 20-30 minutes of your workout to get the best results.  Also, don’t forget about hydration…you need to hydrate during your work out but you also need to continue to hydrate after…gotta replace those fluids and electrolytes.

So that’s all fine and dandy, but knowing what TYPES of foods to eat before and after workouts and then actually coming up with ideas for those meals and snacks can be difficult. So to get you started….here are a few great pre- and post-workout snack ideas! Happy working out!

PREWORKOUT IDEAS

Oatmeal + berries

Banana + peanut butter

Greek yogurt + fruit + nuts

Whole grain bread + almond butter

Whole grain crackers + low-fat cheese

Fruit smoothies (fruit + yogurt + nut butter)

POST WORKOUT

Veggies omelet + fruit

Turkey + veggies + whole wheat tortilla

Celery + peanut butter + craisins  

Homemade trail mix (nuts + dried fruit)

Protein shake (with Gnarly protein powder!)

Protein bar (homemade or your fav brand)

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