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What to Eat Before and After a Workout

Last Updated on April 21, 2022

Anyone who works out regularly knows that nutrition and diet is an important half of the battle. Eating right can help you reach your goals and perform better. However, many people focus on what to eat before a workout. Turns out, it's also a good idea to pay attention to what you put in your body as well.

Whether you are preparing for a marathon or doing weight training, you have to get the right amount of vitamins and minerals. We looked at medically reviewed guidelines to help you get the most out of your exercises

The Importance of The Post-Workout Meal

Your muscles keep glucose in glycogen stores, which is what fuels you during a workout. When you exercise, your glycogen levels deplete and so does some of the protein in your body. When you finish, your body works hard to repair your muscle proteins and rebuild the glycogen stores.

For this reason, it matters what you choose for a post-workout snack. Consuming carbs and protein can help your body quickly: (1)

  • recover and reduce fatigue
  • restore muscle glycogen synthesis
  • improve muscle growth (muscle protein synthesis)
  • decrease protein breakdown

Eating for Recovery

There are several macronutrients involved in the recovery process after your workout. Each macronutrient has its own function.


Carbohydrates help you replenish your glycogen stores. The rate of depletion depends on your body type and activity level. An endurance sport such as swimming or running will use up more glycogen than weight lifting. So, runners may need to go heavier on the carbs than bodybuilders.

Experts say that you want to eat carbs within 30 minutes of exercise, and you want to have 0.5-0.7 grams per pound of your body weight. This practice is especially key for a person who works out often. If you rest for a day or two between workouts then it's not as crucial.


Evidence from studies show that consuming at least 20 grams of protein can maximize your post-workout recovery. Since you may experience protein muscle tissue breakdown, your body needs to replenish those amino acids. (2)

Additionally, another process called insulin secretion helps with glycogen synthesis. Research shows that ingesting protein and carbs at the same time can speed up muscle repair. Research suggests that you should follow a ratio of three grams of carbs to every one gram of protein.

The recommendation is to eat 0.14-0.23 grams of protein for every pound that you weigh.


Surprisingly, you don't have to avoid fat altogether when you eat after a workout. Sure, you want to limit your fat intake, but research shows that it doesn't affect your nutrient absorption. In one study, people who drank whole milk after an exercise session had more muscle growth than those who drank skim muscle.

Having a little fat in your post-workout snack does not affect recovery. Some healthy fats that you can try include peanut butter, trail mix, nuts, dried fruit, and avocado.

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What to Eat Before Working Out?

You may also be wondering what eat before a workout. And, when should you eat a pre-workout meal? Ideally, you want to consume a snack no less than 30 minutes before working out. If it's a full balanced meal, then eat it between two and three hours before.

Don't eat too much directly before you exercise, or you may get an upset stomach. If you only have time for a snack, eat something with a high protein content or carb content, such as:

  • a piece of toast
  • crackers
  • oatmeal
  • fruits
  • Greek yogurt
  • a glass of soy milk
  • a hard-boiled egg

You should also be sufficiently hydrated before you hit the gym. Include plenty of water in your pre and post-workout regimens.


What should you not eat after a workout?

Eating the right foods after a workout can help your body recover, help you build muscle, and build your immune system. However, consumption of the wrong foods can do exactly the opposite. According to a sports nutrition coach, you want to avoid:

  • a sugary protein shake with artificial protein powder
  • an over-processed protein bar
  • sports drinks
  • salty or fried foods
  • caffeine, such as coffee

Some good snacks that can replace these poor options include grilled vegetables, baked sweet potato, a banana, coconut water, a healthy smoothie, or smart carbs such as berries. It is also important to eat something as opposed to nothing because your body needs nutrients and minerals to keep up performance.

When should I eat after exercising?

According to nutritionist Rima Kleiner, "Eating protein-rich food after a workout helps build muscle, reduce recovery time, and increase strength." So, you want to have a solid protein intake and a good carbohydrate to protein ratio. Some example meals and snacks include:

  • Proteins. Plant-based protein powder, egg whites, tuna, baked chicken breast, salmon, cottage cheese, eggs
  • Carbs. Sweet potatoes, quinoa, chocolate milk, leafy green veggies, blueberries, bananas, rice cakes
  • Healthy fats. nut butter, flax seeds, coconut oil

According to most wellness advice, it's best to stick to good carbs that can help you with your fitness needs. Consider brown rice and things such as a slice whole-grain bread when you make a sandwich.

Your protein depends on the intensity of your training. Athletes doing strength training may need extra. When in doubt about how to meet your goal, make sure you seek medical advice.

Finally, you want to avoid using a sugary electrolyte drink as part of your post-workout nutrition. Professional athletes can get away with it, but for most people, there are better ways to replenish your electrolytes and energy.

What should I eat after a night workout?

Sometimes you prefer to or have to workout late at night. If so, you may have covered what to eat before workout and don't want to overdo it afterward. It's important to eat after a workout to rebuild your muscle cells after resistance training.

Try to eat a healthy meal an hour before you work out so that you don't have to eat a lot right before bed. Some great sources of protein with not too many calories are:

  • natural yogurts with almonds or a handful of fruit
  • boiled egg with the yolk
  • peppers and hummus
  • spinach salad with fish
  • granola bar

Stay away from foods high in sugar and sodium. Although people consider it a bad thing to eat before bed, our bodies need nutrients and hydration after intense exercise.

What should you eat before and after a workout?

Any trainer or a dietitian will tell you to carefully plan your pre-and post-workout meal. What you eat affects your energy levels and your blood sugar levels. When you break a sweat, you are using up glycogen storage that you need to replace.

Before you workout, drink lots of water and fluids to avoid dehydration. You want to build a lifestyle of good habits so that making the right choices is second-nature. Some tips for any athlete include:

  • rice cakes with almond butter
  • leafy greens and whole grains
  • foods high in antioxidants
  • peanuts and dried pineapple
  • pear or apple
  • omega-3 fatty acids

Get a combination of products on your plate that benefits your body. Remember that you need good carbs in addition to protein. If you don't want to prepare meals, a whole-grain turkey sandwich with a green smoothie is always a good way to go.

Pre-Workout and Post-Workout Nutrition

Your workout is only one part of a life of balance and health. Making gains in your weight loss program or in building muscle mass relies on your post-workout meal as well as asking yourself, "What to eat before I workout?" For the best results, you need to drink water and consume a range of healthy protein and carbs.

These suggestions hopefully gave you useful examples of foods that would benefit you. Remember that timing of your meal is just as important as content. However, keep in mind that everyone is different, and we can all get our fuel in different ways.


  1. Kerksick, C., Harvey, T., Stout, J., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C., Kreider, R., Kalman, D., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., Ivy, J. L., & Antonio, J. (2008). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 5, 17.

  2. Biolo, G., Tipton, K. D., Klein, S., & Wolfe, R. R. (1997). An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein. The American journal of physiology, 273(1 Pt 1), E122–E129.


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